GENEVA — Apparel exports have fared better than other types of consumer goods during the global financial downturn, according to a recent study from the World Trade Organization.

This story first appeared in the November 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Global apparel exports showed “a mere 2.1 percent decline” during the fourth quarter of 2008, said the report, marking the only contracting quarter of the year. Between January and September, the value of exports grew 4.6 percent to $362 billion.

China showed strength during the last quarter of the year, with the value of its apparel exports rising 10.9 percent. The country was ranked as the world’s top apparel exporter last year, with shipments up 4 percent to $120 billion. China’s exports to the U.S. were flat at $28.5 billion, but exports to the European Union spiked 23 percent to $39.8 billion. That surge was attributed to the end of restraints on 10 categories of textile and apparel items.

In the first quarter, China’s apparel exports contracted 5 percent. The EU saw apparel exports fall 10.3 percent in the last quarter of 2008 and drop 18.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Turkey has been hit hard, with apparel exports down 23.7 percent during the fourth quarter and 27.2 percent in the first quarter. In 2008, Turkey’s apparel exports fell 2 percent to $13.6 billion.

Lower-cost sourcing destinations picked up significant market share in 2008, as major brands and retailers looked to cut expenses. Bangladesh saw apparel exports climb 23 percent to $10.9 billion in 2008, while Vietnam experienced a 21 percent increase to $9 billion.

The WTO data showed that Russia posted the biggest increase in apparel imports, with shipments worth $21.4 billion last year, up 48 percent on the prior year.

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