Textiles and clothing industry which is a major export sector could not fail to be affected by the international financial crisis which has been quick to turn into an economic one.
Identifying the impact of the crisis on the Tunisian textile & clothing industry, a survey conducted by CEPEX checked a decline and a deferment of orders issued by ordering parties especially during the last three months of 2008, raw materials higher prices, a delay in payments of bills by ordering parties and a lack of visibility and uncertainty over trade.
It is true that European imports of textiles and clothing in general fell by 1.6% following the loss of purchasing power leading to a decline in consumption. The downward trend is also significant in regard to sales of ready-to-wear (up to -1.4% in France and 6% in Spain), being noted that low-end chains and self-employed retailers are most affected.
Besides, losses are reported in terms of jobs as well as a fall in foreign currency.
In similar circumstances, the volume of orders decreased as collections were spaced out, which led the ordering parties to focus on European supplies from countries closer than Asia with shorter circuits in order to mobilize less cash.
Meanwhile, it was found that Tunisia rival countries seized the opportunity provided by European ordering parties’ trend to focus on small series, to remove competitiveness bolts (logistics, fluid goods, social regulation …)
However, the crisis does not seem to have affected indiscriminately Tunisian exporters as shown by results of Cepex investigation which notes that 70% of exporters surveyed have no problems with orders while 80% recorded an increase in exports turnover compared with the same period of 2007.
It should be noted in this connection that 30% work for their own parent companies and 10 companies sold or set up other production units.
Given this situation, companies facing hardships are involved in number of actions aimed to thwart revenue decline by diversifying customers, spreading the range of products and creating their own collections. These actions were accompanied by others, including the creation of websites and promotional tools and more frequent participation in fairs abroad.
The fact remains that working hour’s cuts were decided on since last October, and more importantly, forecasts predict a decline in exports by early 2009 as competition is getting tougher as far as Turks and Chinese are concerned.
The products most affected by declining exports are jeans trousers (-1.0%), women lingerie (-13.4%), work clothes (- 14.5%), skirts, dresses and suits (-1.4%) and men’s clothes (-11.9%).
As for products recording an increase in exports, they include swimwear (15.1%), shirts (2.8%), pullovers (9.3%) and other pants (4.5%).
In value terms, exports have suffered a drop of 40% (U.S.A), 16.4% (the UK), 3% (France and Spain) and 0.1% (Germany).
As for the rising markets, they are the Netherlands (14%), Sweden (13%), Belgium (6.4%), Portugal (6.2%) and Italy (2.2%).
Concerning Tunisia’s suppliers, Italy ranks first with 33%, followed by France (26.5%) then the others whose exports to Tunisia range between 8.1% for Germany and 1.7% for the UK.