LAHORE, Pakistan — With the value of the euro and the Turkish lira dropping significantly against the dollar in the last year as the Pakistani rupee remained stable, Pakistani mills are relying on a multipronged strategy to attract buyers.
According to estimates by the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, woven apparel exports grew 9.1 percent in value and 5.8 percent in volume for the nine months through April. Knitwear increased 7.8 percent in value and 1.4 percent in volume in the same period.
This growth has been spurred in part by the 9.6 percent duty savings for woven and knitted apparel products from Pakistan achieved under the Generalized System of Preferences Plus program granted by the European Union in January 2014.
“Pakistani and Bangladeshi currencies have not devalued in the last year, and we sell in dollars,” said Najeeb Malik, managing director of Master Textiles, a garment mill in Lahore that produces tops and bottoms for such retailers as Zara. “Turkey’s products into Europe are at the same price level as last year and cheaper for the U.S. market. In order to compete for price-conscious brands like lower brands of Inditex and Primark, we have reduced our product price by 10 percent.”
Higher fashion lines like Zara Woman and Zara Man of fast-fashion stores that require a two-week delivery time for garments are produced in Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco, while Zara Basic garments, requiring a lead time of six to eight weeks, are made in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, he said.
“European brands now have an option to go to Turkish mills, which are better and faster. Using a combination of cheaper cotton, oil and redesigning of product such as re-engineering of fabric construction and changes in washing techniques, we have reduced the cost of our denim jeans by 5 to 7 percent,” said Ahmed Shaikh, chief executive officer of Azgard Nine Ltd., a Lahore producer of jeans for chains such as Zara and Mango.
“Due to internal factors of a rising minimum wage, power costs and costs of upgrading mills, in addition to currency rates, the factory price of product that was 35 to 45 percent cheaper than Turkish product a year ago is now only 25 percent cheaper,” said Zaki Saleemi, general manager of marketing at U.S. Apparel & Textiles in Lahore.
For fast-fashion brands like H&M, speed to market is paramount and products from Turkey can be trucked to Europe easily within two to three days. Pakistani mills have supply-chain logistics challenges still to overcome, he said. However, lead time for a fashionable pair of jeans made at U.S. Apparel & Textiles is 65 days, down from 90 after developing an on-trend product range and having fabric at hand.
To work with heritage brands such as Levi’s that are committed to making sustainable waterless jeans, saving 96 percent water in the wet-finishing process, U.S. Apparel & Textiles has invested in higher technology machinery to reduce water, energy and chemical consumption, Saleemi said.
Brands like Levi’s also negotiate a pricing strategy with mills where the price of the product is linked to the price of cotton, said Shaikh. In the last year, the price of cotton yarn has decreased 20 percent, noted Samir Saigol, chief operating officer of Azam Textiles and Saritow Spinning Mills in Lahore, which produce air-jet weaving yarn for bottom-weight fabrics.
With the currency shifts, importers and brands have been pushing to drive garment prices down in the last six months, said Khan Mujeebullah, ceo of iTextiles, a specialty yarn importer in Karachi used by brands like Levi’s, Gap, Zara, H&M and Esprit to supply specialty yarns to mills here.
Khan said, “First, the quality of the product deteriorated. For example, the market demand is for garments with less than 5 percent growth or sag, so replacing polyester for higher-priced Lycra dual-effect fiber did not work. Now we have reduced our specialty yarn prices by 4 to 5 percent to help mills offer a discount because consistent fabrics are Pakistan’s strength.”