Russia/Belarus

Russia had a current GDP growth of around 6.5% per annum. Yet predictions are for this to reduce by as much as 4% in 2015, with the world price of oil playing a major part in the Russian economy’s volatility.

During the Soviet times, Belarus was a source for raw materials and market for the Russian textile industry and in a perfect world a considerable textile manufacturing infrastructure remains. However, with the price of oil falling and with trade sanctions imposed, the future of industries is shaky.

Insights

  • The Russian clothing retail market is one of the six largest in Europe, having grown 12%–25% per annum 2000-08. The value growth for 2010–11 was more than 17%.
  • The Russian apparel market is attractive to local and international companies as it has demonstrated higher volume and value growth compared to Western European markets. The potential growth in the size of the middle-class consumer base has motivated local and international apparel companies to actively develop their business activities, yet the current economic situation in Russia may force consumers to become less confident in ‘luxury’ spending.
  • The trade agreement between Russia and China, and the switch to domestic currencies in trading, means the rules have now changed for trade between these two power countries. Despite the weakening ruble, the positive trend of Russian-Chinese trade grew 8.2% to $53.68 billion in 2014, and this is likely to continue to rise.
  • However, grave concerns are still being held as the ruble continues to plummet, with Russia’s foreign reserves falling from $511bn to $388bn in a year.
  • The requirements for childrenswear among Russian consumers have become increasingly sophisticated. The baby and child-specific products category is expected to register double-digit growth in value terms during the next few years.
  • Clothing accessories such as hats, caps, scarves and gloves are a necessity in Russia. Their sales increased by 13% in value and by 5% in volume in 2010/11. The average unit price of clothing accessories increased by 8% in 2011. Sales of accessories are expected to show a constant value with forecast compound annual growth rate of 4% during 2011–2016.
  • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, clothing production plunged and later a series of crises led to the destruction of existing supply chains and the closure of many factories. The collapse of the industry resulted in a surge of illegally imported Turkish and Chinese goods. In 2010 only 4% of clothing sold in Russia was produced domestically, 16% was made in Russian-owned factories in China and 80% was made outside Russia by foreign companies.
  • Of the 20 worsted mills that produced fabric during the Soviet period, only two or three have continued operating. Imports account for 90% of the market, including fabric for the Russian army, police and security forces. The current annual demand of worsted fabrics for uniforms is estimated at 4 million metres, with domestic production meeting less than half that figure.
  • Following an agreement between the Russian light industry company Roslegprom and Bellegprom, Belorussian companies are to make military uniforms and accessories for the Russian forces.

Opportunities for wool

  • With a population of more than 142 million, a very cold winter season, a growing middle class with disposable income, Russia promises opportunities for woollen products at retail.
  • The exceptionally cold weather in Russia offers immense opportunities for woollen products in outerwear such as overcoats, coats, jackets, cardigans for men and women.
  • Another opportunity for wool is in childrenswear. The unit price of childrenswear is not much cheaper than the price of clothes for adults. Despite the production of childrenswear needing less material, it does tend to use higher quality fabrics and special dyes.
  • The other two categories which have a great potential in the Russian market are accessories such as caps, scarves and gloves and also next to skin products as thermal wear.
  • With prolonged and severe winters wool offers great solution for insulation at home with blankets, throws, furnishing and carpets for interiors.
  • Opportunity for wool exists in the Russian manufacturing industry as the manufacturers who are still in business recognise the merits of Australian wool. They used Australian wool in the Soviet times as it was being procured and distributed by a central Soviet agency then and are familiar with the fibre.
  • Belarus, with low wages and favourable exchange rates, offers the opportunity for establishing manufacturing supply chains for wool. Additionally, with proximity to Russia and Europe, the manufacturing companies in Belarus have an opportunity to market their woollen products.