Australia recession hits garment trade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 July, 1993, 12:00am

AUSTRALIA'S recession is forcing garment importers to seek cheaper prices than many Hongkong manufacturers can meet, say exhibitors at a garment show.

The Trade Development Council's (TDC) Hongkong Garment Exhibition 1993 - the largest garments-only show Hongkong has staged in Australia - has been well received, attracting 700 visitors to its 31 exhibits in Sydney on Thursday and Friday.

A higher attendance was expected as a two-day show got under way in Melbourne, Australia's fashion capital, yesterday.

However, although exhibitors say Australia's removal of quotas on garment imports makes it a potentially lucrative market, there are doubts about the number of orders they will receive, in particular for quality garments, as a result of the exhibition.

''I face the problem that they request the price to be lower,'' said Sammy K.W. Yeung, director of sales operations for Cohin Knitting and Garment Manufacturers, a division of Giordano Holdings.

''I cannot say they are unrealistic - the Australian economy is not so good now so I cannot ask them to pay more - but this really is a problem.'' Mr Yeung said potential customers were more interested in price than quality.

Lisa Yang, sales executives with ACE Knitting Factory, said the removal of quotas had prompted her company to appoint a Sydney agent.

It had previously concentrated on the European market, but thought Australia had potential, especially as the economy improved.

''But everyone wants cheap prices but good quality,'' Ms Yang said.

Joe Lam of P and J International said his company, a first-time exhibitor, found the face-to-face contact worthwhile and had lined up three potential chain store customers, but price was a problem.

Australia is Hongkong's 12th largest trading partner. Last year it bought US$307 million worth of clothing and accessories out of a total of $1.65 billion worth of Hongkong imports.

The TDC's Australia and New Zealand representative, Douglas Chan, said the exhibition was part of the council's promotion of co-operation between garment manufacturers following the abolition of quotas and the reduction of tariffs on textiles, garments and footwear announced by Australia on March 1.

He said the Hongkong garment industry faced increasing competition from Chinese companies, which were far more active in the market and at trade fairs.

''The figures show that products made in China are getting a very large share of the Australian market,'' he said.

''Hongkong will have to offer good-quality products and a better service.'' He said the territory's suppliers were doing so.