Bangladesh would be able to set an export target of $100 billion in the next 10 years, riding on the country's improvement of the apparel production facility and compliance over the past few years, international clothing retailers and brands have said.
The buyers are also happy that Bangladesh will remain the favourable sourcing destination for apparel items as the sector's people are able to produce almost all items as per buyers' requirements.
The observations came during talks with journalists on the sideline of the Sustainable Apparel Forum 2022 that kicked off in the capital on Tuesday.
"The industry has become more mature over the last 40 years and now it has a unique entrepreneurship," said Ziaur Rahman, head of Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Ethiopia Region for the Swedish retail giant H&M.
It is ready to invest further as per buyers' requirements, he added.
Thanks to recent investments, Bangladesh has a good number of green factories and the country is on the right direction in terms of workplace safety, compliance and product diversification, Ziaur Rahman noted.
He also said, "If the government now set a target to export $100 billion garment items in the next 10 years, it would be possible."
The regional manager of H&M, the largest apparel buyer in Bangladesh, said Bangladesh is the most important sourcing destination for his company.
"This [Bangladesh] is our very important market. We will stay here," said Rahman, adding that currently, his company has been sourcing apparel items from 300 Bangladeshi garment factories.
He also mentioned that this year their sourcing value would be about 11% of Bangladesh's total export value.
"We cannot even think of sourcing apparel items without Bangladesh," he added.
He said Bangladesh needs more investment in innovation, circular fashion and product diversification and human development.
Echoing Rahman, Dutch fashion brand G-Star RAW's Regional Operations Manager Shafiur Rahman said his company annually sources garment items worth $70 million which would reach $90 million by the next three years by registering a 30% sourcing growth.
Of the products, the brand used to source about 75% of knitwear items but recently the company diversified the sourcing to denim, woven and outerwear products, he said.
As a high-value products buying company, it sources 1 million denim items from Bangladesh which are worth about $20 million, he added.
Alice Tonello, director of R&D Tonello, an Italian garment machinery manufacturing and supplying company, said her company has been supplying machinery in Bangladesh over the past 28 years.
"Bangladesh is the largest market for us. The demand for our machinery in Bangladesh has been growing a lot every year. Absolutely, the garment sector will continue to grow in future as well," said Tonello, who is running her family business.
So far, her company supplied 1,500 textile, garment and washing machines to Bangladeshi garment factories, where global sales were 9,000 units.
Yilmaz Demir, regional sales manager of Asia at the Turkish company Bossa, said his company sells about 1 million yards of denim fabrics worth £5 million in Bangladesh in a year.
"I have been supplying denim fabrics over the last 16 years," he added.
He said, "Bangladesh is going good as the factories improved their production facilities. But the prices of raw materials have increased a lot after the Covid pandemic. Bangladesh is the best."
But changes in the Generalised System of Preferences may be an issue for Bangladesh in future, he added.
Rashid Iqbal, executive director of Naveena Export Ltd, a Pakistani denim fabrics manufacturer, said his company has big confidence in Bangladesh because of the country's improvement of compliances.
His company ships 5 lakh metres of denim fabrics worth $1.7 million to Bangladesh a month.
He has an office in Dhaka and has been supplying denim fabrics to Bangladeshi partners over the last 15 years.
"Bangladesh is a very strong market for us," said Rashid.
Dolly Thay, managing director of Cloths "R" Us Ltd, a buying house, said work orders are shifting from China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Sri Lanka as Bangladesh has grown a lot of capacity over the past few decades.
However, the profit margin from the export of garment items is still very low, she said.
"Bangladesh should be proud of what has been achieved. Bangladesh has made huge strides towards a more sustainable garment sector. I often challenge people to give me another example of a sector that has turned around the image and its degree of compliance in such a short amount of time. I never get a serious reply," said Anne Van Leeuwen, the Dutch envoy to Bangladesh who visited the expo yesterday.
"But let's also not be complacent. Challenges remain. Garment workers in Bangladesh today are affected by the way sourcing takes place in Bangladesh. And given the scale of the industry in Bangladesh, there is plenty of work to be done in decreasing the sector's environmental impact," he also said.