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Apparel industry must focus on polishing marketing skills - Experts
11
Aug '08
The apparel market scenario of Sri lanka is in such dire straits that foreign experts have advised industrial players to get closer to their markets and restrict to a focussed number of customers to pull through the threats posed by burgeoning competition and increasing cost of doing business.

Experts have noted that buyers are no longer traveling as much as they did to visit suppliers and are instead hoping for business to come to them.

Besides, during a meeting of exporters organized by the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), it was pointed out by Michiel Scheffer, consultant to the European Union on GSP market access scheme, that Sri Lanka needs to acquire better marketing skills for attracting foreign buyers.

The association is essentially an industry organization of manufacturers and Sri Lanka Apparel Marketers Alumni, consisting of professionals trained by the domestic branch of Chartered Institute of Marketing for the apparel export industry.

It was also observed that financial crisis which began in the US was quickly expanding to other countries, impacting the credit availability to companies and thereby restricting finances.

Moreover, since there is a shortage in raw material availability together with a price rise, there is an urgent need to increase production of fibre to cement the supply gap. However, if the situation gets worse and if the country fails to meet the world demand, manufacturers may also have to make use of other substitute materials.

Mr Michiel also threw light on the fact that retailers were actually looking forward to partnership with firms that are developing their own designs and can offer a wider service apart from acting as mere contract manufacturers.

Even here, marketing skills would play an important role in projecting producers as competent thus justifying for higher prices. Mr Michiel then stressed on the importance of 'narrow casting' as one of the key marketing skills which calls for a focus on limited number of clients.

Further specifying on the advantages, Mr Michiel asserted that adopting better marketing skills would allow Sri Lanka to become less dependent on the EU GSP Plus scheme for its export of garments.

Presently, the domestic industry is worried about losing the GSP Plus special preference whose renewal is due by the end of this year. Although the Government has refuted the accusation of human rights violation charged by the EU, it has advised exporters not to depend on the grant of this scheme.

As such, the only immedaite solution at hand is to polish and ameliorate marketing strategies that will help attract clients and expand apparel exports of the country.

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