British retailers take fresh look at Portuguese market

Special report by Chris Graeme

Top quality British clothing retailers are taking a fresh look at Portuguese garment manufacturers in the north of Portugal.

And it’s partly thanks to the efforts of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, which, between September 27 and 30, will be facilitating a series of meetings between the suppliers of high-end brands and Portuguese textile companies.

Twelve UK-based buyers from seven companies will be meeting 15 to 20 Portuguese manufacturers who are rapidly making a name for themselves in producing top quality garments not aimed at the mass market.

Helena Fernandes, Events and Services officer for the BPCC, explained that many Portuguese clothing manufacturers had realised that they could no longer compete with new, emerging markets with cheaper labour costs like Turkey and China.

Instead some had redesigned their business models and now aim to capture the more exclusive and designer markets.

“Portuguese manufacturers have, over the past few years, become more professional and have turned to doing what they know best – producing clothing for the quality sector of the market,” she says.

A lot of Portuguese companies are now offering excellent products, with good turnaround times and excellent quality, and the United Kingdom is once again a main target for Portuguese manufacturers.

The BPCC was requested by a number of manufacturers to organise field trips to visit factories and speak to manufacturers during the North’s most important textile and clothing fair Modtissimo, which runs between September 28 and 29 and returns again in February.

Modtissimo is organised by Manuel Serrão, the CEO of the Associação Selectiva Moda (ASM), one of the organisations looking to beef up the position of Portuguese companies in the United Kingdom market.

Selectiva Moda is an association that was set up in 1992 with a specific view to increase international awareness of the quality know-how, skills and products that the Portuguese excel at in terms of textiles.

“Modtissimo is bringing the buyers over to have a look at what Portuguese manufacturers can offer. Rather than just a trade fair, we are taking them to visit the facilities of the manufacturers. We asked companies here to submit their requests and we have been overwhelmed with invitations from the Portuguese manufacturers to visit them,” says Helena Fernandes who will be hosting the delegation in the north.

On September 28 and 29, the BPCC will be at the Modtissimo fair at Edificio da Alfandega do Porto.

The BPCC says that over the years many companies had decided not to exhibit at such fairs, even though they have excellent products, because not many buyers were coming over to Portugal any more.

That’s why the BPCC has focused on contacting each buyer individually and offering them not just the trade show, but also individual meetings with each buyer where they can present their products and site visits to factories.

The BPCC says that the interested companies embrace all sectors including bridal, children’s clothing, accessories and specialised products.

Buyers interested in Portuguese manufacturers so far, some of which have already booked up for next February’s fair, include famous names like Christopher Shannon, Antony Price – who designs lines for Top Man), Guide Clothing, Holland Esquire, Jenny Packham, Lou Dalton menswear and Emilio de La Morena.