Under pressure from Chinese and Indian manufacturing muscle, Turkey's trade show organizers are emphasizing the nimble nature of the country's textile industry to seduce international buyers in search of higher-quality goods.
At the same time, they are reaping benefits from improving economic conditions at home, which have created a more attractive and stable environment for international investors and higher domestic spending.
The European Commission, which has been examining Turkey's bid for membership to the trading bloc, upgraded the country's economy from emerging status to a full-functioning market economy just two years ago.
Through the first nine months of this year, exports grew by 14.4 percent to $80 billion, and economists forecast continued strength through the end of the year. Last year, Turkey's textile and apparel exports gained 4 percent to just under $20 billion.
Still, not all indicators are favorable. In particular, companies are under pressure from the sinking value of the dollar, with Turkey's currency, the lira, trading at close to a six-year high.
"Exporters are having difficulty reaching the same amount of profits that they earned before," said Gul Orundas, CNR Expo's international marketing supervisor. (CNR organizes the Istanbul Fashion Fair, or IF, and the Istanbul International Textile and Accessories Fair.) On the other hand, Orundas said the high value of the Turkish lira has brought a flood of imports.
"Sales are increasing and famous brands are opening shops every day in Turkey. Most of them have buying offices in Turkey, too. There is huge interest in luxury items and fashion thanks to the economic situation."
Though Turkey is best known as a go-to location for sourcing, particularly for cotton and denim items, strident efforts have been made, largely with the help of government financing, to build brands.
For instance, ITKIB, a government-sponsored textile and apparel commission, has allocated aid to promising designers through its so-called Turquality program.
ITKIB's efforts have been successful to the extent that they have raised the profile of the country's homegrown talent.
"Either alone or jointly, [Turkish manufacturers] carry on their attempt to establish retail shops," said Bulent Unal, chairman of TUYAP, which organizes a raft of trade events in Istanbul. "They recognize the importance of design and creation."Even if the country remains a key location for sourcing, with fashion consumption on the rise at home, Turkey's fairs are courting more international brands to exhibit. At the next edition of IF, which runs Feb. 7 to 9, Orundas said more international brands would be present than in the past.
"IF now has potential buyers from different countries and segments," Orundas said. "We are trying to charm international buyers. And the designer area is becoming well known."
The show expects to showcase some 450 exhibitors and draw as many as 30,000 visitors.
To further bolster the fair's profile, Orundas said IF had organized various fashion shows and diversified its advertising campaigns to court buyers from Turkey's neighboring countries. Road shows to England, Russia, the Czech Republic and Hungary or Poland are also being planned.
TUYAP, which organizes shows that include the Istanbul Leather Fair; the International Knitting, Embroidery Hosiery Machines, Side Industries and Accessories Fair; the Istanbul Yarn Fair, and the Textile Machinery Fair, also is increasing visibility.
The company is expanding by opening a new 200,000-square-foot exhibit hall that is slated to be finished by spring 2009.
"Istanbul is now the biggest meeting point of the Eurasia region," said Unal. "There are a series of very important and competitive trade fairs in Turkey. This being the situation, if producers want to have their share of the market, they will consider coming to fairs in Turkey a priority."
Unal said Turkey has particular appeal today for companies that need to manufacture products rapidly. "The proximity of Turkey has become an important advantage in trade with European Union countries, which make up almost 85 percent of Turkey's garment exports," he said. "A serious amount of production of important European brands has been moved to Turkey and this brings an additional dynamism to the market."
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