Apparel Online Cover Story - The Maturing Sweater Industry In Bangladesh

Bangladesh ‘knitting’, the largest eco-system for sweater manufacturing after China

Last year, when Apparel Online captured the ‘pulse’ of the sweater industry in Bangladesh, the most interesting factor that emerged was the efforts to tap the jacquard sweater market shifting out of China and also moving from heavy to finer gauges, marking a movement upward on the value chain. This time around, the pulse is even stronger with not only the  jacquard business having shifted from China to Bangladesh, but rather the sweater business as a whole is moving towards Bangladesh, due to the rising labour wages and the scarcity of skilled operators for linking operation in China. Also adding to the growth is the fact that automatic flat knitting machines have resolved the labour situation in the sweater manufacturing industry of Bangladesh and now most of the sweater manufacturing companies are in the process of installing their 2nd or 3rd batch of automatic flat knitting machines. Encouragingly, many new companies are also entering the business, expecting a second growth revolution in the sweater business, after the first one in the late 90s. Apparel Online takes a closer look at what leading sweater manufacturers of Bangladesh are up to. 


The growth that Bangladesh has witnessed in the sweater businessin the past two decades can be fathomed by the fact that all its competitors like China, Vietnam, Turkey, India, Thailand and Korea, are now buying from the country. “The kind of capabilities the country has for sweater manufacturing is difficult to be replicated by any other country. As not only is the investment huge but also the expertise and support system required has not kept pace with time in other countries,” opines Saiful Haque, Chairman, Sky Apparels . The industry has taken advantage of lower operator cost and while in Turkey a linking operator makes US $ 10,000 per month and in China they make US $ 1500 per month, in Bangladesh, they make just US $ 200 per month, adding to the competitiveness. Sky Apparels is one of the recent entrants in the sweater industry having installed its first set of 100 flat knitting machines from Stoll, in December 2013 and another set of 100 automatic flat knitting machines would be coming later this year. The company also has in-house yarn dyeing and processing capacity of 10 tonnes per day. Presence of a robust support system in yarn dyeing and processing is also a major advantage that the country has and nearly 20 sweater manufacturers such as NR Group, Masihata Sweaters, SQ Group, Crown Fashion, Tamishna Group, Mohammadi Group, MR Group, Unifill Group and Sky Apparels have built significant capacities for processing and dyeing greige yarns imported from India, Pakistan or China, while around 25 specialized yarn dyeing & processing companies like RN Spinning Mills, Dong Bang, Dyeing and Textile, Navana Textiles, Anontex Group, Queen South Textile Mills, Keya Group and Russel Spinning Mills, add to the capacity with an average of 25 tonnes per day/per company. Although Bangladesh has started building capacities for manufacturing cotton and acrylic yarns, capacities are still missing for fancy yarns, the demand for which is now increasing. It was around 2010 when major investments in automatic knitting machines started flowing in, targeted at acquiring the jacquard market which was expected to flow in Bangladesh from China. However, companies like L’Usine Fashion, Sky Apparels and Sonia Sweaters chose to wait and benefited from the same.“Most of the companies bought intarsia flat knitting machines for nearly US $ 70,000 and changed their product line. We didn’t buy a single one of these machines because Bangladesh is still a market for solids and stripes,” avers Saiful, adding that majority of sweaters at stores in the US and Europe, are basic with a few intarsia .



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Posted on 17-11-2014
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