Changing times call for strategy changes and adaptability. So, at a time when the entire retail sector is undergoing a transformation globally, there’s no way the suppliers can remain unaffected. The second largest garment exporter globally, apparel makers from Bangladesh are not only aware of the same but are also changing their processes and operations accordingly so as to remain viable to the existing and potential buyers.
“This time when in UK, I happened to visit a couple of retail shops in the suburban areas to pick up some stuff, which I usually do when I visit the country. However, I was surprised to see that most of the products that have been put on sale were in the affordable range, the high-end and costly ones were no longer there. On checking with the sales team, they suggested me to visit their branches in the upscale business districts. This was enough to give an impression what the brick and mortar stores in particular and the retail sector as a whole is going through,” explains Enayetuddin Md. Kaiser Khan – Managing Director of Sonia & Sweaters Ltd. to Apparel Resources, dwelling on the changing milieu of the retail sector, that is now in hot pursuit of attaining price competitiveness amidst changing pattern of consumer spending.
An astute businessman himself who is running the business of sweater manufacturing since 2003, Khan has already brought in some changes in his production unit, which is as much due the changing scenario in the retail sector as it is to attain more flexibility, cut cost, and improve efficiencies, as a part of which, Sonia & Sweaters Ltd. has installed around 500 automatic machines, mostly from Shima Seiki with some from Stole thrown in-between to mix and match things accordingly, while plans are on to add more automats in a year or two to take the total number of automatic machines to 1000. “In doing so, from a zero-liability company, we now have a burden of US $ 5 million,” mentions Khan on a lighter note while underlining that with labour wages and cost of raw materials on the rise, there’s no option than automation to remain in the race.
Khan is of the opinion that automation is no answer to bargain better price points from the buyers who also have to maintain their own profitability as end buyers are not willing to pay more but it definitely is an option to cut cost and wastage, which ultimately reflects in the production cost.
“If wastage has come down to a great extent, it has also helped us cut on manpower and attain production flexibility,” elucidates Khan, who is now planning a dyeing facility to attain greater self-sufficiency while also looking at minimising dependence on China for yarns and other raw materials.
“With sweater business becoming a round-the-year affair as demand for cotton sweaters and in other blends are increasing significantly, we are hindered due to our China dependence as a business in China virtually comes to a standstill for almost a month during the Chinese New Year. Besides, Bangladesh has improved a lot in terms of raw materials. It is only for special yarns that we have to go to China now,” concludes Khan.
A part of Sonia Group, Sonia & Sweaters Ltd. Limited along with its sister concerns Sonia Fine Knits Limited (focuses on manufacturing sweaters in finer gauges) and Naba Knit Composite Limited (manufacturers of high-quality knit items like t-shirts, polo-shirts, tank-tops, etc.) caters to a host of clientele globally including names like GAP, Carrefour, Ripcurl, Peacocks, George, and Adler, etc.