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Turkish Trade Shows: Feeling the Pinch

As the global economy slows, Turkish fashion makers experience effects.

Turkey exported $13.69 billion in clothing in 2006.

Already under pressure from Chinese and Indian manufacturing power, Turkey’s trade show organizers are bracing for tougher times ahead as the global economic crisis stiffens.

Signs that growth may skid to a halt are already starting to accumulate. Turkish exports dropped 1.8 percent in October after rising 31 percent in the same month a year ago, according to Turkey’s Exporters’ Assembly. For the year, exports from Turkey still increased almost 29 percent to $132.4 billion. In September, exports from Turkey grew 42 percent.

With the dramatic downtick in October, some businesses are worrying that the worst is still to come.

“We cannot expect Turkey to remain completely unaffected by global economic crisis because our country is considerably integrated with the global economy,” said Hikmet Tanriverdi, the chairman of ITKIB, a government-sponsored organization that sponsors Turkish fashion and textiles.

“Turkey faced a very severe national crisis in 2001,” said Gul Orundas, manager of international visitor promotion at fair organizer CNR. “There are precautions being taken and companies are focused on cost cutting.”

Even as the outlook is sure to be tough, Turkish manufacturers feel that they can benefit from the continuing acceleration of the fashion system, which demands brands to be more nimble and quicker to react to consumer buying trends.

“Today’s highly fashion-conscious consumer needs fashion items that follow the changing trends,” said Tanriverdi. “With Turkey’s close location advantage to Europe, we have the opportunity to give quick deliveries with high-quality fashion in small quantities. Many chains, in order to be more fashionable and competitive in their own markets, [are moving away from] ordering big volumes to be stored in their warehouses. This is a big advantage for Turkey, whereas in China they still need to give longterm orders with big quantities.”

In 2006, Turkey exported $13.69 billion in clothing, according to ITKIB. About 75 percent of that production is earmarked for European countries, according to Bulent Unal, chairman of the Turkish Fair Organizers Association and Tuyap, which organizes fairs for clothing and furniture. “Being close to [our main market]…is a significant advantage,” said Unal.

Equally important, Turkish firms hope that offering more service will keep clients faithful. “Research and development activities, cooperation between universities and industry and governmental institutions are the important instruments for the industry in order to stay competitive,” said Tanriverdi. “We have improved to now offer full package services, including designs. As a next step, our aim should be increasing our potential by worldwide Turkish brands.”

Though Turkey is best known as a location for sourcing, particularly for cotton and denim items, concentrated efforts have been made to build brands.

ITKIB has been instrumental in these efforts by organizing fashion shows for young designers and sponsoring designer contests.

ITKIB also runs the Turquality project aimed at promoting Turkish brands in international markets. Designers from Hussein Chalayan to Dice Kayek have benefited from the program.

“Turquality has the vocation of being a support program that provides financial and managerial contributions to value-added Turkish products,” said Unal.

Upcoming fashion and textile fairs in Turkey include the IF International Fashion Fair in Istanbul Feb. 5 to 7 and the Istanbul Leather Fair, Dec. 4 to 6. Tuyap, which organizes the IF show, said it expects about 300 exhibitors and as many as 10,000 visitors.