World trade in hosiery is expected to rebound in 2021 but growth looks sluggish in 2022 and beyond

World trade in hosiery, including socks, pantyhose, tights, compression hosiery and stockings, is expected to rebound in 2021, according to "International markets for hosiery", a 25-page report from the global business information company Textiles Intelligence. But growth in 2022 and beyond is forecast to return to low single digits.

The rebound will follow a 13.7% fall in 2020, when world exports of hosiery fell to their lowest level since 2010. The fall reflected the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are concerns about the recovery of the market in the coming years as several threats loom.

The prediction for 2022 is based on the assumption that global economic uncertainties will persist-particularly in the EU and the USA, the two main consumer markets for hosiery-as the world economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world economy has also been negatively affected in recent years by protectionist measures-including additional tariffs on US imports from China-and such measures are likely to continue to have a negative impact on trade growth in the coming years.

In the case of hosiery in particular, the additional tariffs on US imports from China are likely to result in a shift of some Chinese production to lower cost countries in Asia-including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Having said that, many of these lower cost countries do not have the infrastructure in place to produce the high volumes which the Chinese industry is capable of producing.

The largest hosiery exporting countries-which include Italy, Turkey and the USA-have historically been relatively high price suppliers. However, exports from many of these countries have declined in recent years as new players located in low cost Asian countries have made significant gains at their expense.

In the case of hosiery imports, growth in the two largest markets-namely the USA and the EU-is likely to be minimal in the coming years as these markets are mature and the economic outlook in these markets is poor.

In fact, most of the growth in import markets is expected to occur in emerging markets in Asia, reflecting rapid expansion of the upper and middle classes in a number of countries in the region.

As a result, there is expected to be some upheaval resulting from shifts in sourcing trends in the short to medium term and such upheaval could negatively affect world trade as a whole.

At the same time, however, it should create opportunities for new players to enter the market.

Opportunities are also expected to arise as a result of the implementation and increasingly widespread use of Industry 4.0 production methods, which will allow for mass customisation and improvements in productivity.

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