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Sri Lanka apparel exporters urged to get closer to markets

Aug 11, 2008 (LBO) – A European expert has advised Sri Lanka's apparel industry to get closer to their markets and focus on a limited number of customers to survive the threats posed by growing competition and rising costs. Scheffer, who is a professor of fashion and textile management at the University of Netherlands, said the profile of buyers had changed.

He described buyers as having previously been 'hunters' who roamed the world seeking out suppliers but were now more 'reapers', preferring to wait for suppliers to come to them.

"Buyers do not understand as much about making things as buyers did previously."

Increasingly, he said, retailers were looking for partnerships with firms who are developing their own designs and can offer a wider service than being mere contract manufacturers.

This made marketing skills more important as it allowed manufacturers to project themselves better and justify higher prices.

He also stressed the importance of 'narrow casting' - of manufacturers following a limited number of clients rather than trying to cast their net wide.

Marketing skills, he said, would also help Sri Lanka's clothing industry, one of its top export earners, become less dependent on the

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