OVER the last few years the dynamics of domestic cloth market have changed for the better: cloth making industry has enhanced output, the market size has increased, new ways of marketing have emerged and companies have set up new chains of stores or raised number of the existing ones and imports of clothes have shrunk.
The growing competition in the international market has led many efficient cloth making companies to produce high-value ready made suits for local buyers, and the new wave of fashion shows in big cities is helping them in marketing their products. Higher income levels of rural people have created additional demand for clothing.
On-spot sales at fashion shows and the use of internet are doing wonders. One can now find trendy suits for young men and women not only in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad but over a dozen other cities like Hyderabad, Sukkur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan and Peshawar.
Many businessmen, who previously used to import unstitched clothes from Japan, Korea, Thailand, India, China and Bangladesh, are nowadays doing a roaring business in local varieties of cotton and silk cloth and lawn-suits for ladies, people associated with the trade say.
Whereas such big brands in clothing industry including Gul Ahmed, Al-Karam, and Chenab have increased the number of their chain stores and located the new ones in middle-income areas, scores of other local cloth manufacturers are also focussing more on local supplies in the wake of growing competition in the international market. Value-additions of all kinds take place in traditional hubs of such activities like North Karachi and New Karachi, Orangi and Liaquatabad.
“I supply thousands of meters of plain cotton and silk cloths to karigars in these areas and they turn them into embroidered bridal suits. From there these bridal suits and a full range of attractive Shalwar Kameez suits and Saris come into the high-end shops at Tariq Road, Defence and Clifton markets,” says Syed Sarfraz Ahmad, a wholesaler of local clothes and dresses.
“Domestic cloth and dresses market has grown so rapidly over the years that now we as wholesalers deal with 40 plus local brands of lawn-suits only,” he said and named many of them adding that marketing through the websites and live presentation at fashion shows has helped boost this business.
“Previously you saw fashion shows held at five-star hotels only but now you can see them held at big and small shopping malls in both posh localities as well as in the middle-income areas.”
Over last couple of years, the trend to prepare special wedding suits for men has also become popular creating opportunities of new businesses. “Ten years ago a would-be-groom would walk into our shop to order for one or two western-style suits for his wedding,” says Asadullah Khan, a tailoring shop owner in Saddar. “But now in addition to western-style suits the would-be groom gets stitched special and embroidered Kurta-Shalwar suits along with a Sherwani and a typical male-dupatta for his wedding day.
He would buy a turban from somewhere else. His friends and cousins also buy Kurta-Shalwar-dupatta suits. I tell you the trend is catching up fast,” he said. As for stitching and embroidery works tailors rely on karigars in Orangi, Liaquatabad, North and New Karachi areas whereas the clothes for male wedding dresses come from suppliers operating mainly in Jama Cloth Market, Saddar and Tariq Road.
Clothes and dresses for men’s use have become more diversified over the years and they vary in quality and pricing. “Three things are worth noticing,” says Syed Shadab Mohsin, who supplies denim for stitching of men and women’s jeans. “After the 2008-09 global recession and consequent slowdown in domestic economy, people have lost jobs in the regular sector. This has given rise to entrepreneurship of all kinds.
Cloth merchandising is one of them. Secondly, the middle-class has expanded due to a number of factors including a pass-through of increased rural income into urban areas due to closer and faster interaction between villages, small towns and cities. This has helped in emergence of new ways of making money in innovative ways particularly at a time when agriculture is doing better than industries. And thirdly, youngsters now try to catch up with Indian and Western fashion so instantaneously thrown upon them through media. All these factors have led to better though at times not more expensive style of dressing.”
People engaged with clothing industry chain say that cheaper yet attractive men’s dresses are in good supply everywhere.
“Some years ago when I used to visit interior of Sindh or Punjab I hardly found anything worth my liking,” says Syed Ali Raza, a frequent traveller to rural Pakistan in connection with his pharmaceutical businesses. “Now if I can steal some time after my official work and while away my time in shopping centres of Hyderabad or Quetta for example I am tempted to buy T-shirts or Jeans there. Shopkeepers there tell me that they get fresh supplies from Karachi much more frequently than in the past.”
Much of the expansion in domestic clothing industry is primarily because of setting up of new units in the unorganised sector.
“Grey clothes manufacturing units have sprawled up here and there. Dying units have sprung up in sub-urban areas. And almost all varieties of non-cotton clothes whether labelled as art silk or whatever are either smuggled from Iran or China if at all they are not imported,” commented an official of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association. He argued that in the organised sector things have gone from bad to worse after a nominal expansion seen in the last two fiscal years. But he agreed that domestic trade in clothing industry has definitely increased partly due to rising demand with increase in population and enlargement of the middle class and partly due to innovative marketing techniques.
A retired textile commission said that expansion in domestic use of textiles and clothing could emerge as the second most important driver of domestic demand after food items. “Unfortunately we have still not developed systems to reliably measure changes in trends of domestic demand. Until such time everything would continue to remain hinged on guesstimates,” he lamented.