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Sri Lanka to be leading country at US apparel show in August

By Walter Jayawardhana

SRI LANKA TO BE FEATURED AS THE LEADING COUNTRY  AT A  APPAREL SOURCING SHOW  IN LAS VEGAS IN AUGUST

ASAPSri Lanka, already famous for its manufacturing of top  selling brands like Victoria’s Secret in the United States, to lure more companies,  will be exhibiting its apparel products in next August at one of the leading apparel sourcing shows visited by thousands of potential wholesale and retail chains and private dealers.

Frank S. Yuan, Chairman and CEO of the ASAP show said Sri Lanka would have the next show’s Focus Country Pavilion for at least 30 Sri Lankan manufacturers of apparel and related products if the final approval comes from the Sri Lanka government.

Having an interview with me at the posh Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas at the tail end of the last ASAP show that was held in February Yuan, a Los Angeles based businessman said, successful negotiations have been conducted with the Sri Lankan envoy in Los Angeles, Consul General Jaliya Wickramasuriya, and his Trade Consul Gamini Premasiri to bring in some of the leading apparel entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka to the successful show here next August where about 40,000 US dealers will be provided opportunity to make contact with them to establish many more Victoria’s Secret like connections in the future.

“ Sri Lanka is already in an advantageous position over the other countries to sell its products to the massive US market since it is one of the few countries of compliance,” said Yuan.

“ Sri Lanka is one of the few apparel manufacturing countries in the world considered as a country of compliance where human rights are applied at the workplace, no child labor is practiced, safety regulations and health measures are applied at the factories and labor regulations are respected- some criteria that should be fulfilled to win US customers,” said Yuan. But with all those added qualifications not enough buyers are lured to the country he pointed out.

He said Bangladeshi government is paying 50 per cent of the expenses of their manufacturers to come to the show. Some rich nations like Italy is paying 100 per cent of the expenses for its producers to come there and make the necessary connections for their businessmen to establish contacts.

Mangala Senarath, of Hunters World, a manufacturer of bags was the sole exhibitor from Sri Lanka who has been religiously coming and attending the ASAP show for the last seven years. He said it was this show alone that helped him to build his business. He said regularly coming to the show as the sole bag manufacturer from Sri Lanka helped him to form a partnership with Brent Lee Greer to manufacture for White Buffalo, a million dollar order. White Buffalo, making hunting and fishing apparel, bags, tents, caps, hats and backpacks for the huge US outdoor market has started manufacturing the products at their new factory at Dankotuwa Sri Lanka now.  I met Mangala Senarath and his wife at the sole Sri Lankan booth in the Venetian Hotel, Las Vegas doing brisk business with a ever flowing US entrepreneurs to his kiosk showing his numerous bag samples at the last ASAP show. A grateful smiling man with a large frame of a body, who jokingly calls himself a “game’ appuhamy” ( a country yokel) wanted me to do him a favor. He said it was Lalith Kotelawela who helped him financially when  White Buffalo was established and he wanted me to mention that in my report.

Jaliya Wickramasuriya, Sri Lanka’s new Consul Genral in Los Angeles, a man with lot of experience in doing US-Lanka business in the past in importing tea to the country is a very ambitious man about improving Sri Lanka’s apparel imports to this large market.  He says the Magic Show, the largest apparel show, which is held in parallel with the ASAP show (Apparel Sourcing Association Pavilion) is attended by many marketers of the United States in the same city.  When they get orders for various products they visit ASAP show in search of some manufacturers to obtain what they want.  “Some times you do not want many orders at this. Even one order, like the one received by Mangala Senarath, is enough to make your business”, he said.

He said he is proposing to bring in at least 30 apparel manufacturers from Sri Lanka for the show obtaining the status of the focus country. They could be varied manufacturers related to apparel industry like textiles, swim wear and under garments, jeans, t shirts, children’s wear, head gear, handlooms, natural rubber products like mattresses made without harmful chemicals, eco-friendly fabrics, etc. At the same time he would also want to encourage upcoming small and medium producers to come here and make contacts with the world’s greatest garment market. Wickramasuriya said he has already spoken to the EDB and Sri Lanka’s Apparel Association in about bringing in Sri Lankan manufacturers to the show and has had a very positive response. Sri Lanka has participated in the show at a smaller scale before. Wickramasuriya also has discussed providing some government incentives for the participants.

He says he has demanded the best location in the show for the Sri Lanka pavilion with prominent display of the country’s name.  He also demanded an exclusive reception area for the Sri Lanka entrepreneurs to meet the serious buyers at the show where they could entertain them at dinner with a Sri Lankan cultural show.  He also wants some US models to exhibit some of the Sri Lankan apparel.

In addition, he wants to give a warm or iced Ceylon tea, free of charge, to every visitor to the show to promote Ceylon Tea as an added bonus of the show.

Frank S. Yuan, the CEO of the ASAP show said, Sri Lanka as the ‘Focus Country’ will be allocated prime location on the show floor,  the Pavilion will be specially decorated,  the Focus Country Pavilion of Sri Lanka will be extensively promoted,   Focus Country will have own Buyers’ Reception Area in the Pavilion and there will be special Match-Making sessions between pre-qualified US buyers and exhibitors of ‘Focus Country’. In short, he said the ‘Focus Country Pavilion’ will be a “show within a show.”

Yuan further said , Post-MFA trading regime poses serious challenges and offer tremendous opportunities to Sri Lanka in the largest apparel market as the buying patterns in the U.S. textile market will undergo a radical change. ASAP August 2007 show provides an excellent platform to the garments producers to make an effective presentation at the time when the contours of post-quota market will start to emerge. Being the Focus Country in this event gives a significant advantage to Sri Lanka vis-à-vis its competitors – the combined advantages of a “Single Country Exhibition” and a “Specialized International Trade Fair”.

Featuring as a Focus Country, Sri Lanka would be able to present and establish its status as the leading producer of textile garments. In addition, Yuan said, accessories, handbags, folk and household products can all be promoted at the show.

Most important is that ASAP will properly introduce and emphasize Sri Lanka’s leadership in compliance and fair trade among all Asia.

Yuan said a banner/hyperlink would be placed on the ASAP website marketing/mentioning Sri Lanka as Focus Country. The click on the banner would link to a page on Sri Lanka Website which would contain material on strengths of Sri Lanka garment sector and invitation to visit Sri Lanka Pavilion at ASAP.

He also said an Eflash would be sent to all the 40,000 qualified buyers in ASAP database declaring Sri Lanka as the Focus country and marketing Sri Lanka’s strengths.

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March 11, 2007 - Posted by | News and politics

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