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Chinese manufacturers look at home for sales boost

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BEIJING -- Chinese clothing manufacturers have been forced to look at the domestic market for growth opportunities due to sluggish overseas demand.

Statistics from China National Textile & Apparel Council showed while China's exports of garments saw only minor growth this year, local producers' sales in the domestic market embraced a boom.

In the first nine months of the year, China's garment exports edged up a mere 1.35 percent to $116.79 billion.

The overseas market was once the lifeblood of many Chinese garment factories.

Wang Tiankai, head of the CNTAC, forecast that the plight of export-reliant Chinese manufactures will continue due to weak external demand, competition and trade frictions.

"Tapping domestic consumption has become the key breakthrough for Chinese garment producers," said Chen Dapeng, vice director of China National Garment Association.

According to a CNTAC survey on 614 manufacturers, 93.4 percent of their sales revenue last year came from the domestic market. The scale of domestic sales has grown from 700 billion yuan ($111.3 billion) in 2005 to more than 1.4 trillion yuan in 2011.

But despite the sector's restructuring efforts, nurturing self-developed brands has remained a major challenge, analysts warned.

Of Chinese garment producers' sales in the domestic market, some 90 percent targeted mid- and low-end consumers, according to CNGA statistics.

"China has the world's most complete production line, the most skilled workers, and the most advanced equipment, but not the most resounding brands," Chen said, citing the lack of characteristics and homogenous competition as major stumbling blocks.

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