Apparel makers are optimistic that the export growth trajectory they are currently experiencing will sustain for at least the next few months despite the Omicron wave in European and United States markets, with new orders continuing to flow in.
Industry insiders say retailers in the two major destinations continue to witness high footfalls even in the post-Christmas lean period as consumers have kept on releasing pent-up demand for clothing. The retailers are also getting 5%-6% higher prices because of increasing freight costs, they add.
In the first seven days of 2022, apparel shipments registered around 32% in growth, to a little over $869 million year-on-year, according to sources at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), citing data from the National Board of Revenue.
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) is yet to make an official announcement in this regard.
Receipts in 2021 and 2020 amounted to $659 million and $677 million respectively, according to the BGMEA.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan told The Business Standard, "We are now receiving a good number of work orders from buyers in the lean period following Christmas sales."
Generally, every year the period from 15 December to 15 January goes by as a lean period owing to Christmas vacations.
"We will be able to describe in detail about if there are any effects of Omicron on our export orders after the end of this month," he said, adding that no exporters have faced any cancellation or hold-up of orders yet.
Expressing similar views, Fazlul Hoque, former president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said, "The new variant of Covid-19 will not have any impact on our exports until lockdowns and business shutdowns are enforced in our export destinations."
During the recent Christmas season, apparel sales were very good, a trend which continues, he noted.
After having gone through a long downturn, apparel exports bounced back on a positive trend in August last year, with the global Covid-19 situation beginning to retreat. The garment sector maintained around 28% year-on-year export growth on average in the first six months of the current fiscal year.
According to provisional data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), December 2021 ended with $4.04 billion worth of readymade garment exports, while the half-yearly export in July-December of the current fiscal year reached $19.90 billion.
Knitwear exports saw 56.57% growth in December, while exports of woven garments increased by over 48%, marking a positive turn in all key clothing export categories, as the breakdown of garment export shows.
Faruque Hassan said apparel export has been posting a higher growth for the past few months compared to FY21, which went through Covid devastation across the globe.
He hoped apparel exports would be able to bring in another $7-$8 billion by the end of this fiscal year.