By  on April 10, 2007

BEIJING — This is shaping up to be the year of the domestic market in China.

The trend was highlighted by exhibitor reactions at the recent Intertextile Beijing Apparel Fabrics. At previous installments, Chinese vendors consistently expressed their frustration at the preponderance of domestic buyers, and a shortage of the foreign customers they had hoped to meet. This year, however, vendors expressed more satisfaction with the client mix, and some Chinese exhibitors said they attended with a focus on domestic buyers.

"We now produce 60 percent for export, but we are here in the hope of raising our domestic share," said Huang Mei of the HLC Linen & Cotton Group from Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province.

"People are increasingly seeing China as a potential buyers' market, both for international and domestic producers," said Katy Lam, trade fairs director of show organizer Messe Frankfurt. "We all believe that the Chinese fashion industry is improving a lot, and the expectations of the consumers have risen. They're no longer just looking for cheap goods, but rather quality and design. China is no longer just an export-from market; it's becoming one to sell to, so there is more demand for quality, and more buyers."

At this year's Intertextile Beijing there was also an increase in the percentage of Chinese exhibitors; it is already considered a domestic rather than an international show. Of the 893 exhibitors at the Beijing fair this year, 242, or 27.1 percent, were from overseas, compared with 37.6 percent in 2006, said organizers. However, they added, those numbers are somewhat misleading because a growing number of foreign companies now have China offices and register as domestic exhibitors, at a price that is 40 percent less than the cost to overseas exhibitors.

The fair, officially titled the China International Trade Fair for Apparel Fabrics and Accessories, ran March 22 to 24 at the Beijing Exhibition Center and the China World Trade Center, a space of about 420,000 square feet, up 30 percent from the previous year. The number of exhibitors also rose 30 percent in 2007; there were foreign participants from 20 countries, including national pavilions from Germany, Italy, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand. The Italian pavilion was the largest this year, with 51 exhibitors and 8,535 square feet.This year also featured domestic pavilions arranged by region and product. The China Bast & Leaf Fibers Textile Association organized a Flax Ramie Hemp Jute Section dedicated primarily to linen, and a Zhejiang Shaoxing group focused on cotton, linen and embroidery. The two groups gave the southeastern Shaoxing City and larger Zhejiang Province, which produce 60 percent of China's linen, according to an exhibitor from Shaoxing Guangtong Linen, an unusually high profile at the show. A Zhejiang Xiaoshan group focused on manmade fabrics, and a Jiangsu Shengze group showcased silk products.

"There is a shift from individual to group participation, as part of regional and product groups," explained Lam. "Associations for fiber types and regional governments are pushing to make themselves more prominent."

A total of 19,001 buyers from 77 countries, including China, attended the three-day event, almost 20 percent of them from overseas companies, including firms from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan; 1,613, or 8.9 percent, represented foreign companies with a branch or subsidiary office in Mainland China.

Intertextile Beijing ran concurrently with its sister show, the Yarn Expo. Also at China World, the expo this year filled 32,290 square feet with exhibitors from China, Belgium, France, India, Pakistan and Singapore. "Intertextile's exhibitors are Yarn Expo's buyers," explained Lam, "so people usually start at the Exhibition Center and then go to China World."

The travel time between the two venues, always an issue, was longer this year because Beijing's infamous traffic congestion has worsened significantly. "Beijing traffic is bad, and we can't predict how long the trip will take," Lam sighed, adding the organizers had added three more shuttle buses to ameliorate the problem.

Also held concurrently in Beijing were China Fashion Week, the China International Clothing and Accessories Fair, or CHIC, and the Global Textile Economic Forum, which all, like Intertextile and Yarn Expo, were sponsored by the China National Textile and Apparel Council. "The China Textile Bureau wants to make late March a ‘textile week' in Beijing," said Lam. "In fact, it's a good idea to have a big industry event in one city to attract international buyers and suppliers."According to participating exhibitors, Intertextile Beijing is the second-best textile fair in China, but still lags behind Intertextile Shanghai. Complaints centered around the venue and the buyer quality, although several exhibitors said the latter improved this year. "Domestically, the two Intertextiles are the best," said the representative from Shaoxing Guangtong Linen. "Everywhere in China people are now doing these kind of trade shows, but there's no way for them to get to the level of these two, which have the best overall results, execution and organization. The other shows I go to and see, but we don't participate in them. Shanghai is better than Beijing; the concept is bigger, plus the venue, location and environment are all superior."

"The numbers are the best part of this show. We don't have any big complaints, and plan to be back next year," said Sun-Mi Choi, assistant manager of Kim's Silk from South Korea, adding the company had met about 15 new clients at the show. "We also go to some similar events in Hong Kong, and compared to those, there are more people here and thus more opportunities. This is in China, so we're here looking for Chinese customers, as well as to see what other genres of cloth our competitors are doing. We don't have many international clients now. China is a newly opened and developing market, so we do not have much business here yet."

Huang Mei, of HLC Linen & Cotton Group, was attending Intertextile Beijing for the third time, and said he met several hundred customers this year, brandishing thick books full of new contacts. The company also regularly attends the Shanghai show, as well as TexWorld in Paris. "It's about the same as Shanghai and much better than last year. Service could be better, though, and it is a little chaotic," he said of the Beijing fair.

Hong Kong's TexHong also regularly attends both the Beijing and Shanghai fairs, as well as Interstoff in Hong Kong and once went to TexWorld in Paris, all organized by Messe Frankfurt. "This year is about the same as previous years," said product manager Peter Guo. "Beijing is just like this, never as good as Shanghai, with fewer and poorer customers. The advantage is that Beijing is China's capital."Guo said the company met 30 to 40 new customers at the event, but "after coming five or six years, we already know almost everyone." For many companies, Intertextile is more a way to assess industry trends and competitors and networking with existing clients, rather than meeting new ones.

"They're supposedly moving to a new place next year, so it should be better," Guo continued. "We'll definitely continue to go to Shanghai, but we're not sure whether we'll come to Beijing next year. If the new venue materializes, we will come, but not if not, as it is too chaotic here."

Lam confirmed Intertextile Beijing would next year depart the 53-year-old, Russian-style Beijing Exhibition Center for the China International Exhibition Center, or CIEC. CIEC traditionally was occupied in late March by CHIC, but that show will move to a new venue in northern Beijing next year. The Yarn Expo, she added, would remain at the China World Trade Center. Lam dismissed rumors that Intertextile Beijing will be canceled next year due to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The next Intertextile will run Oct. 29 to Nov. 1 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

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