GENEVA — Exports of textiles and apparel from industrialized countries are expected to continue to lose market share to competitors from emerging economies, with changing demographics adding to the slide, according to United Nations experts.
But the luxury and brand-dominated watch industry in rich nations appears to be bucking this trend and has managed in the last decade to increase its share of global exports in the sector, thanks largely to increasing demand by affluent consumers in developing economies, such as China, they said.
“The richer segment wants to get involved in conspicuous consumption. They want to buy what are considered luxury items,” said Steve MacFeely, head of statistics and information at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development.
“Rolex seems to be popular with men in China and Cartier with women,” said MacFeeley, lead author of UNCTAD’s latest annual “Handbook of Statistics 2015,” which monitors export trends.
The handbook shows that last year, in the watch and clock sector, developed economies’ exports hit $37.1 billion or a 65.2 percent share of total exports, up from 60.6 percent in 2005, while developing exporters reached $19.8 billion for a 34.7 percent share, down from 39.2 percent.
MacFeeley said the industry in rich nations “has held its ground” and thinks it will continue to do so as long as the world’s biggest emerging economy, China, is doing well.
The recent slowdown in China has impacted Swiss watch exports, with shipments during the January to October period down 8 percent to China and 22.7 percent to Hong Kong, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.
Concerning apparel, MacFeeley said in an interview that the downward trend for developed country exports “is much more clear-cut.”
Rich countries, he said, are losing market share whether it’s in export shipments of women’s and men’s apparel or accessories. In textiles, it’s the same pattern, “whether you look at cotton fabrics, yarns…everything,” he said.
MacFeeley said for textiles and apparel, “There was no real reason those trends will change. Here you’re looking at outsourcing and cheap labor, and for the moment also cheap transport costs, to help achieve access to markets.”
He also argued that he did not think some of the re-sourcing back to rich countries would alter this trend.
In 2014, the study outlines, developing countries’ exports of women’s or girls’ knitted and crocheted apparel reached $49.1 billion, up from $18.9 billion in 2005, for a global share of 77.9 percent. In the same period, developed country exports totaled $13.4 billion, up from $9.3 billion a decade earlier, for a 21.3 percent share of exports, down from 26.6 percent.
Moreover, emerging nations’ exports of women’s or girls’ woven apparel, UNCTAD said, were worth $67.3 billion, for a 68 percent share of total exports, while shipments from rich countries came in at $30.6 billion for a 30.9 percent share.
Emerging economies also have a dominant position in world exports of yarn and woven cotton fabrics. Last year, emerging nations’ yarn exports reached $39.8 billion, or a 67.7 percent share, up from 55.4 percent in 2005, and developed country exports totaled $17.3 billion, or a 29.4 percent share, down from 43 percent.
Gains have also been significant for emerging nations in exports of woven cotton fabrics, with shipments last year worth $25 billion, for a 77.1 percent share of total world exports, up from 60.9 percent a decade earlier, while exports from rich totaled $7 billion, for a 21.7 percent share, down from $11 billion and a 38 percent share in 2005.