Prices slightly lag behind but this is extremely beneficial

During the global crisis, domestic manufacturers of lingerie are in demand: local goods rival western brands in quality and design but are far cheaper, leading Russian retailers eager to acquire ‘made in Belarus’ lingerie for their shops
By Timofey Kiryushchenko

According to experts, more enterprises in Belarus are involved in sewing lingerie than in Russia. “Moreover, each company in Belarus is producing worthy goods, which cannot be said of many of those located in Russia,” notes the Editor-in-Chief of Lingerie & Tights Business Magazine, Mikhail Uvarov. The edition recently organised a ‘lingerie fair’ in Belarus, featuring over 80 representatives of large and small businesses from 44 Russian cities.

“We see that manufacturing in Belarus is developing more actively than in our country,” admitted Sergey Krivoruchko, the chief specialist of Intriganka — a chain of lingerie stores from the Far East. “Judging by expositions, the quality of lingerie and customer demand, we are keen to look attentively at Belarus rather than Italy.”

Russian buyers admit that current economic conditions are seeing female buyers pay increasing attention to prices, asking for something cheaper. Belarusian brands offer high quality at attractive prices, leading to growing demand.

Alexander Bykov, a European market expert and a representative of the French Eurovet exhibition company, admits that some companies in Belarus are equivalent to the most advanced European producers in their capacity and level of technical equipment. “The engineering base remains, while you have good designers. The core of the branch can be very efficiently developed and brought to the European market,” he asserts.

European companies’ interest in collaborating with Belarusian lingerie producers is quite understandable, as they are keen to move their own manufactures from North Africa — primarily from Egypt and Tunisia. Also, they aren’t satisfied with Chinese sewing quality, especially as China’s prices have risen significantly. Belarus is one of the most affordable options: not cheap, but offering good quality for the price. As far as sales of domestic goods on the European market are concerned, it’s not the best time for Belarusian companies to ‘attack’, as Europeans simply don’t have a large amount of disposable income for luxuries at present. According to some estimates, last year, Europe’s lingerie market fell by 30 percent. Of course, we could open a couple of boutiques in Paris or Milan but it’s probably more efficient to promote our produce through established retail chains. Competition is sharp, so there are issues regarding economic feasibility.

“It’s unprofitable for us to deliver goods to Europe, as we tend to use European raw materials. This means that we pay customs duties on import and then export duties on our finished, ready-made items,” explains the Deputy Director of Tarusa CJSC, Dmitry Zatonets. “Compared to our rivals in Poland and the Baltic States, we immediately lose around 30 percent. At present, it’s more lucrative for Belarusian companies to purchase rolls of good quality fabrics from the West, sewing collections for sale to the East. There’s money to be made, especially in Moscow. Buyers in other regions can’t yet compare in volume with those from Moscow but the market remains far from saturated. Profitability of Belarusian lingerie sales in Russia may total 20 to 50 percent: cream which cannot be skimmed from the European market.”

“Belarusian companies manufacture goods which would be several times more expensive if sold under a French brand,” Mr. Uvarov asserts. He feels that female buyers should be encouraged to view domestic goods in a different light. Belarusian manufacturers have been working hard for several years to promote their lingerie, liaising with top European brands to enhance the level of technical equipment, as well as their staff training. Buyers need to understand the true quality of domestically produced goods. 

Around 20 lingerie manufacturers are operating in Minsk alone, with  about hundred more countrywide. “We are competing against European, rather than local, companies on the Russian market, which has plenty of lingerie suppliers,” admits Pavel Veraksa, Deputy Director of Medea Style Ltd.

The establishment of the Single Economic Space has ‘cut’ this economic map, to the advantage of domestic manufacturers, while promotion of goods to the East has become easier and more profitable.

The winners of the contest for young designers and lingerie makers will set off this summer to show their collections at a specialised fair in Paris. According to organisers, the garments created by the students have surpassed all their expectations.
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