Industry Features and Performance of Hong Kong Clothing Industry

-Industry Features

The clothing industry is a major manufacturing sector of Hong Kong. Its gross output is one of the highest among all manufacturing sectors, amounting to HK$35.9 billion in 2003. It is the largest manufacturing employer in Hong Kong, with 1,673 establishments hiring 28,752 workers as of June 2005. It is also the leading earner in terms of domestic exports, taking up 40% of the total in the first 11 months of 2005.

Hong Kong’s geographic boundary has never constrained the development of the forward-looking clothing industry. The majority of clothing manufacturers have set up offshore production facilities in an attempt to reduce operation costs. Relocation of production facilities offshore has however resulted in a steady decline in the number of clothing manufacturers in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is not only a leading production centre but also a hub for clothing sourcing globally. Companies doing garment trade in Hong Kong are experienced in fabrics procurement, sales and marketing, quality control, logistic arrangements, clothing designs and international and national rules and regulations. The professionalism that they command and the combined services offered are not easily matched elsewhere. With a total of 15,190 establishments hiring 95,889 workers, they form the largest group involved in import-export trade in Hong Kong.

-Performance of Hong Kong’s Exports of Clothing

Hong Kong’s total exports of clothing rose year-on-year by 9% in the first 11 months of 2005. While Hong Kong’s re-exports of clothing rose by 20%, domestic exports fell by 14%. The contrasting performance of Hong Kong’s re-exports and domestic exports was basically ascribed to the increasing relocation of garment manufacturing to the Chinese mainland, resulting from the removal of quotas under WTO’s Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). But the declining trend of domestic exports has been reversed somewhat in recent months, due to the re-imposition of quantitative restraints on mainland-made textiles and clothing by the US and EU.

Retail sales in the US held firm in the first 11 months of 2005, rising by nearly 6% from the same period in the previous year. In the first 11 months of 2005, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to the US rose year-on-year by 11%.

In the first 11 months of 2005, Hong Kong’s total clothing exports to the EU surged year-on-year by 18%. Clothing exports to major EU markets like France, Germany and Italy recorded growth rates in excess of 20%.

On the other hand, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to Japan levelled off in the first 11 months of 2005 partly due to the trend of direct shipment. On the back of the rising income however, Japanese consumers tend to resume their spending spree on premium clothing items. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s clothing exports to the Chinese mainland dropped by 11% in the first 11 months of 2005, compared with the same period last year.

Product-wise, Hong Kong’s exports of woven wear rose by 12% in the first 11 months of 2005. While woven wear for women/girls grew by 13%, those for men/boys recorded a growth of 8% from the same period in the previous year. Knitted wear grew by 2%, with women/girls and men/boys rising by 1% and 6% respectively. While clothing accessories declined by 3%, other apparel articles, for their part, increased by 13%.