Foreign garment exporters have been facing fierce competition to secure a market share in France and the European Union, said Jo Bueters of French retailer Casino Group which is operating the Big C supermarket chain in Vietnam.
China is considered the strongest competitor, with total apparel exports to France amounting to 5 billion euros last year.
Meanwhile, Vietnam only ranks 12th with much lower export revenue: only 250 million euros.
China’s success is attributed to its extensive production networks in countries in close proximity to the EU like Tunisia and Morocco.
The network helps China shorten the route to the EU, which means Chinese products arrive at target markets faster than products from other Asian suppliers, Jo Bueters said.
Moreover, the abnormal weather patterns in France have led to the imbalance of supplies and demands for clothing products, resulting in snowballing inventories at garment retailers.
For example, winter clothing is in short supply there but summer products are awash at retailers.
On top of that, French people’s incomes have dropped considerably due to the global economic doldrums and they are forced to tighten their purse string to stay prepared for tough times ahead.
But Jo Bueters said the demand of French consumers for fashion items remained strong as they only refrained from buying luxurious items.
She said French people had keen interest in promotional programs. Half of the total volume of consumed clothes in France is discounted products.
Alice Baey, global purchasing director of Casino, advised Vietnamese exporters to pay attention to business ethics and social responsibility.
These factors have been significantly affecting French consumers’ behaviors, she said.
The French textile and garment market is full of challenges but it doesn’t mean there is no opportunity left for exporters from other countries, Baey affirmed, citing the strong growth of the fashion segment of young people as an example.
The most important thing is that Vietnamese suppliers should update market information and be flexible to survive instead of being left behind other rivals, she said.
The local textile and garment industry is finding its export target of US$19 billion this year increasingly difficult to achieve as import orders from major customers, especially in Europe and the United States, are dropping.
Many enterprises at a meeting said 2012 would be a tough year. Several well-known textile firms are likely to face a reduction in orders.
Phan Thi Hue, chairman of Thanh Cong Garment-Textile Joint Stock Company, said the prospect of the second half of the year might not be as hopeful as predicted.
Orders from European partners are declining, while the situation is not so optimistic in the US market either, she said.
According to the General Customs Office, Vietnam’s textile and garment export turnover reached over US$1 billion in January 2012, dropping 17.1 percent compared to the preceding month and 12.2 percent year-on-year.
Exports to major markets such as the US, the European Union and Japan declined 12.3 percent, 21.2 percent and 7.7 percent respectively.
However, the industry last year still obtained an export turnover of $15.6 billion, an increase of 40 percent compared to 2010.