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As another year of trade shows and events kicks off in Asia, industry watchers are eyeing macroeconomic and logistical developments in the region.
This story first appeared in the November 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
China’s manufacturing sector has been hit hard in recent years, entering a slump that won’t easily be reversed. For textile and apparel makers here, times are tough but the field appears to at least be stabilizing.
“Business is difficult, but we are not losing more orders this year,” said Pan Xiaohai, marketing manager for a southern textile factory. “We want to increase our orders and exports, but for the coming months the situation won’t change.”
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Production in China, still the world’s largest maker of textiles and apparel, began backsliding with the onset of the global financial meltdown in late 2008. The Chinese government poured billions of dollars in infrastructure investment into the country, mostly in projects such as railways and highways. Yet the manufacturing sector was left to fend largely for itself, particularly smaller, independent companies. Thousands of factories have shut down and a large percentage of those still in business have scaled back production and taken other measures to become more competitive.
At the Intertextile trade show in Shanghai last month, there were signs of a gradual sourcing shift away from China as economies in Europe and the U.S. continue to slow down. There appeared to be a loss of momentum with fewer Western attendees.
Overall, government figures show that China’s economy continues to slow, but perhaps at a more stable rate. In the third quarter of this year, overall growth was 7.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent a quarter earlier and a far cry from the steady double-digit growth the country counted on just a few years ago. Analysts have said China’s growth would slow, but continue at a more moderate pace in the months ahead.
While the pace of manufacturing has slowed significantly and demand for China’s products declined somewhat, the country’s domestic consumption is picking up some of the slack. The latest figures this fall from the National Bureau of Statistics said domestic consumption accounts for 55 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, having grown steadily in recent years.
For manufacturers in China, that means making more products suited to Chinese buyers, even though the profits are slimmer than they would be for exports.
Meanwhile, trade-show developments in Japan are more logistical in scope. The Hikarie Building, a new multiuse complex and shopping mall attached to Tokyo’s busy Shibuya station, has provided show organizers with an ideally located venue option, and some are already taking advantage of it.
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokyo made the move to use the Hikarie Building as its main venue starting with its spring edition in October and it will use it again in March for the fall shows.
Also in March, the fashion, art and lifestyle fair Plug In will be held there. The complex is seen as more conveniently and strategically located than many other Tokyo trade-show venues, as it is in the heart of one of the city’s most vibrant fashion districts.
Last spring, organizers of the RoomsLink show, which generally runs concurrently with Japan Fashion Week, said they would hold similar fairs in Taipei and Seoul this October and November. They plan to continue this push toward internationalization, with another show tentatively planned for Seoul in March and one in Taipei next fall.
While it was reported that many Chinese buyers canceled their trips to Tokyo for fashion week in October due to tensions between the two countries stemming from a territorial dispute, a spokeswoman for RoomsLink said they didn’t notice much of a drop in visitors from overseas. Of the 10,000 attendees to the most recent Tokyo installment of RoomsLink, about 40 percent were buyers. The spokeswoman said there were Chinese visitors among these, but that exact figures were not yet available.