Sri Lanka is preparing for the first ever textile and apparel roadshow in UK, the third biggest market for the sector with the aim to boost exports to $ 1 billion in two years from around $ 600 million at present.
The landmark roadshow is a joint initiative by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Apparel Sourcing Association (SLASA), Sri Lanka High Commission in UK, and the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF).
Titled ‘Sourced Sri Lanka – Textile & Apparel Roadshow’ the event is scheduled to take place June 2024 in London.
EDB said this event, set to take place in early June in the city of London, will feature 50 exhibitors and is expected to attract a diverse audience of a 1000 foreign buyers and Sri Lankan trade visitors. The collaboration aims to establish new connections and strengthen existing ties with UK buyers in order to reach a historic milestone for Sri Lanka’s apparel export industry.
Sri Lanka’s apparel export sector has faced challenges, including declining demand in high-end markets like the United States, United Kingdom, and European countries over the past two years. In response, the ‘Sourced Sri Lanka – Textile & Apparel Roadshow’ is a strategic initiative to identify new markets and build relationships with new buyers.
This roadshow is particularly significant as Sri Lanka has not had a stand-alone show in any country for over two decades to promote exports starting in the UK in 2024; the plan is to expand the roadshow to Germany, Japan, USA and Australia in the coming years. The ambitious goal is to increase apparel exports to the UK to $ 1 billion by 2026, leveraging the benefits of the UK Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS). In 2023, apparel exports to the UK amounted to $ 626.74, down by 13% from the previous year. Exports to the UK accounted for 14% of the total in 2023.
The roadshow provides a unique platform for Sri Lankan apparel manufacturers to exhibit their products, emphasising the unique blend of craftsmanship, creativity, and sustainability that sets them apart. Direct interactions between Sri Lankan businesses and potential UK buyers, retailers, and distributors are expected to build trust and collaboration, aiming to establish strong ties in the UK market.
With a global shift towards sustainable fashion, Sri Lanka, known for its commitment to ethical manufacturing practices and eco-friendly initiatives, aims to position itself as a preferred choice for environmentally conscious consumers in the UK. The roadshow will be an opportunity to communicate these values and dispel any misunderstandings about Sri Lankan apparel.
Despite the quality of Sri Lankan apparel, awareness in the UK market may be limited. The roadshow presents an opportunity to educate potential buyers about the unique selling points of Sri Lankan garments. Additionally, by participating in the event, Sri Lankan apparel businesses can gain direct insights into current trends, consumer preferences, and market demands in the dynamic UK fashion industry.
EDB said the ‘Sourced Sri Lanka – Textile & Apparel Roadshow’ in the UK is not just an event; it is a strategic necessity for the industry’s growth and success. It provides a platform to showcase the excellence of Sri Lankan craftsmanship, establish meaningful business relationships, and adapt to the evolving dynamics of the global fashion market. By taking this bold step, Sri Lanka aims to position itself as a significant player in the UK fashion landscape, unlocking new avenues for collaboration, growth and success.
Total apparel exports in 2013 amounted to $ 4.5 billion, down 19% from the industry’s best year in 2022 when exports soared to $ 5.6 billion.
Exports in December amounted to $ 415.6 million as per provisional data from the Joint Apparel Association (JAAF). The December 2023 figure is the highest since December 2022’s tally of $ 451 million. Exports to the UK market saw a welcome but marginal increase of 1.7% $ 54.4 million. In November too exports to the UK improved by 20% year on year to $ 48 million.