Despite showing excellent performance in exports, Vietnamese garment firms are struggling to fully penetrate the domestic market. Growth of garment products of big firms in the domestic market was extremely low last year, with some even much lower than their targets, according to Vu Duc Giang, Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS).

With free trade agreements, several foreign fashion brands like Zara, H&M, Topshop and Old Navy have landed in the Vietnamese market, directly competing with Vietnamese brands. The local fashion industry has also not kept pace with global fashion trends, feels Giang.

Last year, the country’s garments exports exceeded $36 bn, up 16.1 per cent compared to 2017 figures. Fashion designers and firms still have to do things on their own as there is no school for training of professional fashion designers, according to a report. What adds to the problem is local consumers’ preference for imported clothes despite a campaign to encourage consumption of made-in-Vietnam products.

VITAS sees five factors to achieve sustainable development for the garment industry: Develop technology; build resources through training; set up distribution networks—traditional as well as e-commerce; Standardise business ethics and services and catch up with latest fashion trends; and build industrial zones with sustainable facilities and call for investment in fibre textile and dyeing units. Some export-oriented firms have already started targeting the domestic market.