SHANGHAI — A general malaise had settled over participants as Intertextile Shanghai apparel fabrics spring edition began last week — nervousness about a potentially precipitous fall in China’s economy impacting business at the fair was tangible.
It was a reflection of the times and the place, as the fair was held in China’s financial capital just as the country’s political capital wrapped up its annual “two sessions” meetings of the national legislature and political leadership.
Premier Li Keqiang reported at the meetings a further scaling-down of expectations for gross domestic product growth in the world’s second-largest economy for 2015 to a range of 6.5 to 7 percent, after 2014’s official growth rate of 6.9 percent that represented China’s slowest growth in 25 years.
Despite the gloomy news for China’s economy and manufacturing sector, the mood soon brightened at Intertextile as exhibitors found a willing base of buyers still keen to make orders.
“We expected sentiment to be down somewhat this year, but we were pleasantly surprised by the relative optimism from exhibitors and buyers by the end of the fair,” said Wendy Wen, senior general manager of Messe Frankfurt Hong Kong, which produces the exhibition.
“It is reasonable to say the industry in China is going through a period of change, but it is far from in decline, with the development and growth of this fair over the last year a strong indicator of this,” Wen said. “We need to keep things in perspective as well. With overall growth remaining above 6 percent for the foreseeable future, this will still present many opportunities for overseas suppliers in China.”
According to Wen, factors sheltering Intertextile Shanghai from China’s slowing economy are its scale, wide product coverage and internationalism, and that it targets the midrange and high-end segments of the market more than the lower end, which has suffered more dramatically from economic headwinds.
A new record of more than 71,000 buyers, which includes buyers from the concurrent Yarn Expo, Chic and PH Value fairs who also entered the Intertextile Shanghai halls, attended the Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics fair, which ran from March 16 to 18. This represented a 13 percent increase compared to 2015.
The number of exhibitors was also up on last year, with 3,155 companies showing from 27 countries and regions — a total increase of 500 exhibitors.
Among the majority of buyers, who came from around Mainland China, high on their list were medium- to high-end fabrics, particularly specialized pieces showing handcrafted or particularly ornate elements.
“We are looking for high quality,” said buyer Liu Chia Chia from Xiamen Man Zi Costume Co. “The price is a little bit important, but quality is our most important requirement. We have already bought imported lace from France. The price is still a bit high, but the quality really is the best. We are looking for special, handmade embroidery. This kind of handmade embroidery seems to be quite popular now, so it’s a little bit hard to find. It’s expensive, but we will pay for it if we find the right fabric.”
Being a spring fair, the number of premium wool exhibitors was down from last October’s fall edition, but those exhibitors that did come out proved popular and saw plenty of local buyers looking for good quality wool products.
European exhibitors presented materials with a value proposition, with the yuan continuing to remain strong in comparison with the euro.
“The high end of the market will always be resilient here,” said Aris Arakelian, commercial manager of French exhibitor Malhia Kent. “It’s slowed down recently, but it’s not getting worse. We received one big order and a few others on the first day of the fair, and our turnover in China has been very good.”
Among technical fabrics, the fashion-forward offerings at the Korean pavilion proved particularly popular and Taiwanese exhibitors were also cited by buyers for their high-quality offerings at reasonable prices.