NEW YORK — Bangladesh knitwear producers stitched together their first U.S. trade show to make a pitch to the American market, but found the challenges daunting.
The Bangladesh Knitwear Sourcing show ended its two-day run Nov. 16 at Manhattan’s Hotel Pennsylvania, bringing together 45 of the country’s top knitters, all members of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association, which now has 917 member companies.
Bangladesh, which already has a strong business in the knit sector with other countries, is working to pump up its presence in the U.S. since quota restrictions were lifted this year.
“The show really hasn’t been so busy, but I think it’s because this is the first time,” said Babru Chowdhury, director of Arch Ltd. “I’m also surprised that buyers in the U.S. are much different than those in Europe. Here they want it cheap, they don’t care about the quality as much. In Europe, they pay for good quality.”
Chowdhury said that, while he would like to do more business with companies based in the U.S., it was impossible for him to come down in price as much as the buyers wanted.
“We have great quality and I won’t make money if I charge them such a low price,” he said.
Frederique Honore, a representative at Texeurop Ltd., agreed, saying: “People have been very happy and surprised with how good our quality is. But they all want it very cheap and we can’t do that.”
While Texeurop is a France-based company, it opened a production facility in Bangladesh about five months ago.
“We have all new machines, no child labor and better quality than you can find in China or in India,” she said. “You have to pay for that.”
Fazlul Hoque, president of BKMEA, said this contingent of companies is the largest group of manufacturers ever to come to the U.S. from Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is doing strong business in knits and we really can supply product very quickly,” he said. “We offer competitive prices and have much better quality items than what China can offer.”
Hoque said he was aware of vendors’ concerns about pricing.
“Price does seem to be the biggest issue in many cases,” he said. “But I am sure many of the companies can negotiate. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”