U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Commercial Service

Best Market Reports


Provided by:

U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Commercial Service



Best Market Report (BMR)

Best Market Reports (BMRs) are snapshots of a given market segment (or in some cases, closely related market segments) as they are described by U.S. Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State officials stationed overseas. These brief reports come from much longer reports submitted by all of the larger and most of the smaller embassies as part of their annual reporting duties, called the Country Commercial Guides (CCGs), which are also available on the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Posts are requested to describe the best market segments for U.S. exporters; those sections are separated out by market and presented here. If you would like further information on the commercial market in a given country, consult the CCG and other U.S. Government reports on www.usatrade.gov, or contact your nearest U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center.

Countries included:

Saudi Arabia
United Kingdom

Summary of Available 1999 Statistics
(In Millions of U.S. Dollars)
Country Market Total Imports
    United Kingdom
    Saudi Arabia


Comments: Consumer spending in Belgium is picking up after over five years of flat, and even depressed, consumer demand levels. Consumption grew 3.6 percent in 1998, due to increases in real income per household and consumer confidence. Economic forecasts are pointing to steady growth of about 3 percent for 1999 and 2000. Belgian sales of clothing apparel traditionally follow retail sales trends, unless unseasonable weather adversely affects buying patterns. A mild 1998-99 winter deflated sales of heavy clothing, especially coats, but an early 1999 spring is expected to provide good mid-year sales prospects. There is continued strong market interest for American sporting and leisure apparel, as American styles are popular and designer and branded products are less price sensitive. The main competition comes from manufacturers and designers in France, Germany and Italy. For budget clothing and mass distribution items, low cost producers in ,the Far East, such as China, Thailand and Indonesia continue to provide the bulk of imports. Low exchange rates from the Asian "crisis" countries accentuate the trend.

1997 1998 1999
Total Market Size 2,890 2,952 3,098
Total Local Production 1,824 1,863 1,956
Total Exports 986 1,008 2,200
Total Imports 2,052 2,097 1,058
Total Imports from U.S. 81 82 85
Exchange Rate: $ = BEF 35.7 36.3 37

The above market values are in millions of U.S. dollars.
The above statistics are unofficial estimates.
Note: differences in the average annual exchange rates can distort change in market size between 1997 and 1999.


Comments: The total import market for apparel in Colombia in 1999 is expected to reach $69 million (52% knit apparel and 48% not-knit apparel). The United States is a major supplier of apparel to Colombia and is expected to maintain its 59-60 percent share ($45 to $50 million) of the Colombian import market followed by Italy (9%), Hong Kong (5%), China (4%) and Ecuador (2%). Selected consumer goods, including apparel, are freely imported into Colombia - no license required - but an import registration form is needed. Colombian consumers show a preference for U.S. marks and labels, fashion, styles, designs, prints and quality.

U.S. exporters should note that consumers in Colombia usually end up paying an additional 60 to 120 percent over the FOB price of imports. Landed price of apparel is calculated by estimating ten to fifteen percent of the FOB price for freight and insurance costs, twenty percent CIF import duty, and a sixteen percent value-added tax (IVA) assessed on the CIF-duty-paid value of imports, thus reaching an additional fifty-three to sixty percent over the FOB price. Final retail prices usually depend on profit margins agreed on between U.S. suppliers and their Colombian representatives.

The U.S. will continue competing against low quality textile and apparel coming into Colombia from Asia, as well as contraband imports through the free trade zone in Panama, the Caribbean and Venezuela. Illegal or contraband apparel imports account for approximately 30 percent of officially recorded legal imports, which results in an even higher actual import volume from the U.S.(about $58 million).

Although an increasing percentage of outerwear is legally imported, a significant amount comes in through contraband, which is a major problem, especially for consumer goods. Over USD $5.0 billion in all kinds of products is estimated to enter the country illegally. One of the causes for so much contraband is the fact that most consumer goods, including apparel, are subject to a 20 percent CIF import duty and a 16 percent value-added tax (VAT) assessed on the CIF-duty-paid value of imported products. The nearly 60 percent margin over the basic FOB price of legally imported goods encourages contraband.

In the last quarter of 1997 and the beginning of 1998 consumer spending on clothing increased, albeit minimally. Imports benefited from this rise in consumer spending. Market prices, however, have been adversely affected by the devaluation of the Colombian peso and higher financial costs in the 1997-1999 period. Nevertheless, evolution of hypermarkets in Colombia, along with a large array of retail outlets, represent good opportunities for U.S. apparel.

Best prospects within the apparel industry are men’s, boys’, women’s and girls’ clothing, including suits/ensembles; shirts and blouses; T-shirts, tank tops; trousers and shorts; and women’s and girls’ lingerie including pantyhose, tights, stockings, hosiery, brassieres, panties, and swimwear. Colombian garment manufacturers are receptive to imported technology, raw materials, buttons, novelty items, and hardware (metal accessories for clothing) from the U.S.

Data Table (in million of US dollars)
1997 1998 1999

Total Market Size 980.9 1,029.8 782.1
Total Local Production 1,329.0 1,382.0 1,105.0
Total Exports 437.0 426.8 391.9
Total Imports 88.9 74.6 69.0
Imports from the U.S. 54.8 44.2 41.0
Exchange Rate (year end) 1,293.6 1,542.1 2,005.0

The above statistics are unofficial estimates.


Comments: Apparel is one industry sector in which Japan has a trade deficit, and apparel imports hold over 40% of the total Japanese apparel market. The United States is the forth largest apparel supplying country following China, Italy and Korea. Because of the sluggish economy, the apparel market has been affected in 1998 and has shrunk by at least 10%. However, it is expected to expand slightly in 1999.

Apparel imports from the United States in 1998 dropped by 28%, but it is expected current casual fashion trends among Japanese teenagers, such as X-games and utility chic, will help imports from the United States recover in 1999.

The Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Commercial Service Japan (CS Japan) have staged the U.S. Apparel Show in Japan every year for the last 18 years, featuring mainly casual wear. The last U.S. Apparel Show held in January 1999 was very successful even under the current soft economic conditions, with over $4 million in off-the-floor sales, and expectations of $42 million in total sales over 12 months, from the show alone. We expect the show to continue to thrive in introducing American-made casual fashion and are also looking at trade promotional opportunities to feature U.S. women’s and children’s wear in the summer of 2000.

The following statistics include only knitted and woven apparel.

(Millions of U.S. Dollars)
1997 1998 1999

Total market size (at wholesale) 38,115.7 31,685.5 35,198.5

Total local production 23,741.7 19,018.7 21,094.0

Total exports 218.7 182.1 202.7

Total imports 14,592.7 12,848.8 14,307.2

Imports from the U.S. 631.7 420.8 468.6

Note: The above statistics are unofficial estimates.


Comments: The textile industry is concentrated in the north of Portugal. It employs about 25% of labor force and is responsible for about 25% of total Portuguese exports overall. Apparel is the most important sector and has grown significantly over the last decade. There are many new clothing chains operating in this market. Portuguese imports are divided into three segments: fashion products (imported mainly from Italy and France); medium-priced good-quality apparel (in which U.S. products generally compete); and less expensive articles (from the Far East). Imports of apparel cover about 17% of market demand. EU countries are the most important suppliers, accounting for about 90% of Portugal's imports. The main European exporting countries are France (24%), Italy (22%), Spain (21%), and Germany (12%). Imports of sportswear from the U.S. are expected to increase at an annual rate of about 15-20% during the next two years.

Apart from being very popular, U.S. clothing has a good reputation among Portuguese buyers and end-users. U.S. manufactured apparel is considered to be durable and of high quality. Franchisers of apparel, mainly casual and sportswear should look to the Portuguese market and the potential it offers. U.S. designers may consider having their clothing manufactured in Portugal and exported from Portugal to other EU countries.

Most promising subsectors within the sector, along with estimated 1999 total market size of each Subsector (US$ million):
- Casual wear (men, women and children) 1,620
- Sportswear 1,520
- Lingerie 1,350

1997 1998 1999

Total Market Size 5,808 6,380 7,129
Total Local Production 6,812 7.485 8,234
Total Exports 2,008 2,210 2,320
Total Imports 1,004 1,105 1,215
Imports from the U.S. 5 6 7
Exchange rates (1998) 175

Import and export statistics for 1997 were provided by ANIVEC - National Association of Apparel Manufacturers. All other statistics are unofficial estimates.


Comments: A number of factors help to keep Saudi Arabia a growing and promising market for U.S. apparel manufacturers/suppliers, namely, an above-average population growth figure of about 3.5 percent, two to three million pilgrims who visit Islam’s holy sites in Makkah and Medina every year, and two annual religious celebrations, the “Eid Al-Fitr” at the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the “Eid Al-Adha” at the end of the Hajj rituals.

A slower economy has negatively affected Saudi per capita GDP, which fell from $7,600 in 1997 to $6,600 in 1998. Similarly, consumer spending was hit by lower disposable income, and apparel sales in the mid-to-upper range were affected. Apparel imports will not grow as much as they did in previous years; contrary to previous forecasts, apparel imports fell two percent in 1998, but industry sources expect the market to bounce back in 2000. Still, the market is large. Although the U.S. share of the Saudi apparel market is low compared to European and Southeast Asian suppliers, U.S. apparel exports to Saudi Arabia are expected to grow by an average four percent annually, as more U.S. branded stand-alone boutiques are opened. Total Market Size 920 906 906
Total Local Production 70 75 75
Total Exports 12 13 13
Total Imports 862 844 844
Imports from the U.S. 79 77 77

(Note: The above statistics are unofficial estimates.)


Comments: The U.K.’s fashion market has traditionally been dominated by British and European designers, but due to the label recognition of US manufacturers, it has become increasingly easy for American designers to enter the market. American brand identity is a major contributor to the success of US companies in this market.

U.K. apparel industry sales have grown on average 17% each year since 1990, and are now valued at almost $40 billion. At 25% growth, the specialized womenswear sector shows the highest increase in sales over the same period. Consumer spending on clothing as a proportion of disposable income has dropped from 7.5% in 1986 to 5.9% in 1997, competing with other consumer goods and services, such as computers, education, entertainment, and leisure pursuits.

Opportunities for American companies lie in their ability to spot a trend or a neglected segment of the industry. In recent years, London has seen an increase in American designer stores, such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. These, and other American brands such as GAP, are increasing in popularity and will continue to be accepted. The areas of direct mail and direct selling offer additional opportunities for American companies.

Market Data ($ billions) 1997 1998 1999(est)

Total Market Size 36.80 38.30 40.00
Total Local Production 33.30 33.90 34.30
Total Exports 5.15 5.35 6.00
Total Imports 9.35 9.75 10.30
Imports from the U.S. 0.65 0.68 0.72


Besides the brief market descriptions excerpted from the FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide to make this Best Market Report (BMR), exporters will find the Industry Sector Analysis (ISA) reports listed below useful sources of information. In many cases, the market for this product may be quite large, but within the overall national market, does not classify as a “Best Market” sector. Consequently, many of these reports cover countries not included in this BMR. All of these ISAs were written in FY 1999 are in the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). For information on the NTDB, call the NTDB Help Line: (800) 782-8872.

      Men's/Boy's Apparel
      Women's Wear
      Apparel Franchising
      Men's Wear
      Apparel Market
      Men's Casual Wear
      Leisure Wear
      Women's Lingerie
      Spanish Apparel Industry
      Apparel: Sports/Casual Wear


MARKET RESEARCH (Most reports are available on www.usatrade.gov)

Customized Market Analysis (CMA) - Provides a comprehensive, detailed study on a specific product or service in one overseas market. The report is confidential and remains proprietary.

Industry Sector Analysis (ISA)* – Provides industry-specific structured market research reports produced in leading overseas markets.

International Market Insights (IMI)* – Offers short profiles of specific market conditions or opportunities prepared in overseas markets and at multilateral development banks.

Country Directories of International Contacts (CDIC)* - Lists names and contact information for directories of importers, agents, trade associations, government agencies, etc., on a country-by-country basis.

International Company Profile (ICP)- Offers a report portraying the reliability of a prospective trading partner. An ICP includes factual data as well as a recommendation by a trade specialist as to the suitability of the international firm as a trading partner.


Advocacy Center – Coordinates the actions of 20 U.S. Government agencies to level the playing field overseas for U.S. firms and ensure that sales of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance abroad.

Commercial News USA – Serves as an export marketing magazine promoting U.S. products and services worldwide. To advertise, call ABPI at (212) 490-3999, visit the Internet web site at: www.cnewsusa.com or contact your local Export Assistance Center.

Gold Key Service – Offers custom-tailored overseas services that combine orientation briefings, market research, appointments with potential trading partners, interpreter service for meetings, and assistance in developing follow-up strategies.
Video Gold Key/Conferencing – Allows U.S. firms to meet with potential trading partners via video conferencing at Department of Commerce facilities.

Trade Opportunity Program (TOP)* - Reports timely sales leads from international firms seeking to buy or represent U.S. products or services.

Agent Distributor Service (ADS) - Provides a report listing up to six agents, distributors, and representatives that have examined the U.S. firm’s product literature and expressed interest in representing the U.S. firm’s products.


Matchmaker Trade Delegations – Matches U.S. firms with prospective agents, distributors, and joint venture or licensing partners abroad. The Commercial Service staff evaluates U.S. firms’ products and services marketing potential, finds and screens contacts, and handles all event logistics. U.S. firms visit the designated countries with the delegation and, in each country, receive a schedule of business meetings and in-depth market and finance briefings. For more information, visit the Internet web site www.ita.doc.gov/uscs/uscsmatc.html.

International Buyer Program (IBP) – Supports selected leading U.S. trade shows in industries with high export potential. Department of Commerce offices abroad recruit foreign buyers and distributors to attend the U.S. shows while program staff helps exhibiting firms make contact with international visitors at the show. For more information, visit the Internet web site www.ita.doc.gov/ibp.

Multi-State/Catalog Exhibitions – Showcases U.S. firms’ product literature in fast growing markets within a geographic region. U.S. Department of Commerce staff and representatives from state development agencies present product literature to hundreds of interested business prospects abroad and send the trade leads directly to participants. For more information, visit the Internet web site www.ita.doc.gov/uscs/uscs.msc.html

Trade Fair Certification – Supports major international industry trade shows providing high-profile promotion of U.S. products. Certification encourages private organizers to recruit new-to-market, new-to-export U.S. exhibitors; to maintain Commerce Department standards for event; and to provide services ranging from advance promotion to on-site assistance for U.S. exhibitors. For more information, visit the Internet web site www.ita.doc.gov/tfc.

E-Expo USA – Enables U.S. firms to exhibit their products and services internationally on-line via the Internet and provides matchmaking services between buyers and sellers. For more information, visit the Internet web site


Trade Information Center (TIC) – Serves as the first stop for information about all federal export assistance programs, as well as country and regional market information. Talk to a trade specialist to find information and assistance most relevant to your needs. Call toll-free at 1-800-USA-TRAD(E) (862-8723), TDD line 1-800-TDD-TRADE (833-8723).

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB) – Provides on-line trade leads, time-sensitive market information, and the latest statistical releases from a variety of federal agencies. To subscribe, call 1-800-STAT-USA.

Export Assistance Centers (EACs) – around the country are your local U.S. Department of Commerce resource for advice on export promotion.

Source: STAT-USAŽ/InternetTM, a service of STAT-USAŽ, U.S. Department of Commerce.