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INTERNATIONAL STRATEGY - Europe and the Middle East
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Europe and the Middle East






The Textiles Industry Strategy (2011-2015) sets out ambitious targets for the Scottish industry to increase exports from £300m in 2009 to £450m by 2017. The recent economic downturn presented serious challenges for the sector with significant sales lost in key export markets. A focus on driving international sales has resulted in the industry making substantial gains and is now is a much stronger position to further develop international trade.

Europe is one of the major markets for the industry. It is a mature market yet there is a sizeable opportunity to drive deeper internationalisation as well as open up new areas for trade. The Middle East, whilst being a relatively new market for the sector, offers considerable scope to develop trade in specific sub-sectors.
The industry is therefore developing an international strategy to focus on those opportunities which can deliver the biggest return to Scotland. SDI has led on developing this strategy, working with the Industry Leadership Group and with the main trade association (Scottish Textiles and Leather Association). The strategy is based on research into global opportunities and Scotland’s ability to exploit these.
This paper sets out the proposed strategy for the Scottish textiles industry to exploit opportunities for additional growth in the Europe and the Middle East over the next 3 years (2014-2017). It focuses on achieving the industry’s ambition to increase exports from £197m in 2009 to £246m (+25%) by 2015 and £295.5m (+50%) by 2017.

In 2012, Scotland exported textiles worth £217m to Europe :





Scottish textile exports 2011/12*





*Source HMRC statistics 2012


Europe and the Middle East is a very large geographic area. It is extremely diverse, both commercially and culturally, therefore it is essential that we focus on clearly defined opportunities which match our competitive strengths so that we can deliver the best return for Scotland.

The opportunities set out in this strategy have been identified through a combination of published research, industry and SDI knowledge. In addition, research was commissioned in 2013 into the scope of the opportunity in key markets such as France, Germany, Italy and the Middle East, which had been highlighted by the industry as offering the greatest potential for sales. Based on this evidence base and an assessment of Scotland’s capabilities, a set of priority market and sub-sector opportunities have been agreed with the Industry Leadership Group. These are described in this paper.

The global textiles, apparel & luxury goods industry grew by 5.9% in 2011 to reach a value of $3,049.5 billion. By 2016, the global textiles, apparel & luxury goods industry is forecast to have a value of $3,748.7 billion, an increase of 22.9% since 2011. 1. The global technical textiles market is expected to reach $160.38m by 2018 – for the last decade it has increased five times faster than traditional textiles with growth in transport, industrial and sport applications.
To give an idea of the scale of the opportunity, in 2012 Europe and the Middles East imported textiles to the value of £272bn. Scottish exports to the region make up only £217m, less than 0.1% of the market. Europe ranks higher than the US as Scotland’s largest export market. Its proximity and ease of trading make it a key target for textiles companies who now report that their business in this region is now in excess of pre-recession levels. The industry has confirmed that it sees Europe and the Middle East making a major contribution to the ambition to achieve a 50% increase in exports by 2017. Europe is a strong fit with the Scottish proposition around heritage, provenance, design and technical innovation although there are challenges in the routes to market which are highlighted in the sections below on the sub-sector opportunities.
A key part of this strategy is to focus on areas where Scotland’s capacity and capabilities will deliver significant returns. In terms of sub-sector opportunities, the industry strengths are around the luxury sector (including cashmere), interiors for contract and commercial applications and performance textiles (including those for protective clothing and transportation).


The luxury market continues to grow despite the continuing economic uncertainties. A recent Bain report (2013) states that the luxury market in Europe grew 5% in 2012 and is estimated to continue to grow by 2% in 2013. The slowdown in the rate of growth is attributed to an increase in prices but this is mitigated by increasing spend from incoming tourists, notably from Asia. The European fashion sector is a key platform for a number of textile companies. The climate and style in those countries fit well with what is manufactured in Scotland. In addition, many of the biggest retailers and brands are based there. There is not considered to be significant opportunity in the Middle East for fashion, despite the focus on luxury products and the high profile brands that are established there.

The product breakdown includes fabric, accessories, knitwear and clothing (60/40 womenswear / menswear). Scottish cashmere products are understood and valued above cheaper, Chinese imports. Scotland’s history and culture are distinct, offering a differentiation within the European region, as highlighted by Chanel’s Fashion show, Métiers d'Art, staged in Linlithgow in 2012. The Country opportunity is strengthened with iconic fabrics such as tartan, tweeds, fairisles and woollens; and pastimes: golf, hunting, shooting and fishing etc.
Recent research2 has shown that 70% of respondents from French Fashion companies are willing to buy Scottish finished goods in the future Furthermore, 100% of the long established fashion companies have bought Scottish knitwear and accessories, 55% have bought fabric. However, hardly any of the younger companies are aware of Scottish Textiles companies which shows that there is work to be done in terms of raising awareness of the Scottish product and proposition.
There are also significant opportunities in cities such as Paris, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Milan for clothing and accessories. Many draw international visitors to Trade shows and Paris (with over 10.5 million business visitors and 400 trade shows every year)3 and Dubai are amongst the world’s leading retail destinations.

  • France - The market is mature, appreciates the provenance and quality of the Scottish offering and has clear routes to market. If pursuing direct routes to potential customers without need for agents in market companies will need to improve skills in language, marketing, websites and conducting business.

  • Germany - Is the largest market at £50m, a 14% increase on 2012. The market has less multi brand stores. They understand Scottish quality and prices if serviced with timely deliveries. They demand designs and sizing that do not always match Scottish manufacturers’ production.

  • Italy - The Italians are seen as leaders in fashion design. In the past 4 decades fashion houses bought fabric from Scotland but more recently Italian mills have developed their own fabrics which reflect the design talent of Scotland but are softer and more appealing to the consumer.

The opportunity for Scotland is twofold: 1) to sell branded product direct into high-end retailers and 2) to supply product on a contract basis to major luxury brands. In terms of Scotland’s capability, the latter option has the greatest opportunity in the short-term. Many companies cannot afford the resources required to develop a strong branded presence hence a focus on contract business would yield more significant results.

The Scottish interior offering consists of mainly ‘premium’ fabric and accessories made from natural fibres. In Europe and the Middle East, there are both contract and domestic opportunities for Scottish interiors.

Many Scottish mills are used to dealing with large editors and wholesalers. Western Europe offers the opportunity to work direct with interior designers, architects and specifiers which would offer the potential to increase margins. However, this would require more in depth servicing of the market which may not prove an attractive option for some companies.

Both domestic and commercial projects may have the designer/specifier located in an entirely different country to that of the project itself, meaning that knowledge and understanding of the procurement process is paramount.

Domestic Interiors
In the Middle East there are mainly high-end residential opportunities. UAE offers a British led community and city focus: Abu Dhabi and Dubai together contribute about 80% of the UAE’s GDP ($360billion in 2012). Saudi Arabia is planning 500,000 new residential homes over the next 2-3 years to meet the needs of the country’s growing population.
Scottish education links have been established through Heriot Watt with the investment in a large campus in Dubai (2011) and representation in Saudi Arabia, offering fashion, interior design and construction management courses which will help raise awareness of Scottish textiles and products.
Therefore/ SDI research has identified that the Middle East offers High end domestic opportunities where exclusive, complimentary local agents or intermediaries can be found with knowledge of the market and availability to engage throughout the buying process.
The European opportunity is mainly in the domestic market which is growing substantially as, where houses are larger, people socialise in their homes and approx 60% want their furnishings and décor to underline their personality.
This rapid growth offers significant opportunities for interior textiles4. Representation in market, or proactively strong relations are required to enable projects to be won at the decision making stage.
We continue to research new markets to evaluate the opportunities for interiors. The industry has highlighted potential opportunity in Scandinavia which requires further investigation in order to quantify the scale of the market and Scotland’s capability to access it.

Contract interiors
The contract opportunity – hotel groups, corporate organisations such as banks, cruise liners, and one off large scale high profile projects such as airports, opera houses are often bespoke. These require a lot of design time, and large projects can take years to commission; however they can be very lucrative.
The UEFA Cup 2016 to be held in France is expected to drive hospitality refurbishment and large-scale renovations and new construction. With the related boom in the tourism and hospitality sectors, the interior design market is expected to recover strongly in the 2013–2015 period. This is also expected to increase the growth of product categories such as furnishings, bedrooms, wallcoverings, tableware and decorative products, and fabrics and soft furnishings5.
Hotels offer a strong opportunity with huge competition for market share: as a result of the competition from each other and from the domestic alternatives, noted above, independents and boutique hotels seek to establish individuality of décor that meet the lifestyle requirements of diverse target visitors. In a 2013 survey, 30% of German, 40% Italian and 40% Russian respondents stated that the textiles used in hotel furnishings are their main criteria for feeling comfortable in hotel rooms6.
The European Furniture and Floor Coverings report estimates that in 2017, the European furniture & flooring coverings market is forecast to have a value of €223.8 million, an increase of 12.4% since 2012.7
The Middle East market for hotel and contract interiors is accessed mainly through London and Europe.

Performance Fabrics
Specific market opportunities depend on the end use of the products which will often fit into other sectors – medical, defence, food/drink etc. The only perceived barrier for this market is the strength of the indigenous technical textiles market, in Germany in particular.
Scotland produces woven, knitted and non-woven performance fabrics with diverse applications such as filters, tea bags, vascular grafts, bullet proof vests, tarpaulins, sails, ropes, airbags, artificial grass, performance clothing and transportation seating. There are relatively few companies operating in each sub-sector so the approach to market development will mainly be 1:1 work with companies rather than collective activity.
The biggest opportunity for this sector is in the following areas:
Protective Clothing:
The European industrial protective clothing market alone was worth €1.3m in 2009 and is estimated to grow to €1.6m by 20168. Scotland has particular strengths in protective clothing, therefore consideration should be given to the opportunities in this sub-sector.
The total annual world market for the rail supply industry in 2007 was estimated at more than EUR120 billion with an expected annual growth of between 2.0% and 2.5% over the next 9 years. In 2016 the total world market will have reached a volume of EUR154 billion.9

Rail interior opportunities exist in both new-build and refurbishment projects for rolling stock, including High Speed Inter-city, Light Rail Vehicles and expansion of metro lines. Rail Interiors is recognised as a high growth niche sector. Opportunities to access this market include attendance at exhibitions primarily in Germany which attract international buyers seeking to source high performance, quality fabrics (floorings, seating, bulkhead panelling etc).

There may be future developments in other areas of transport for leisure and commercial (such as air, automobile or cruise ships) and these will be monitored to evaluate the potential for Scotland.

If the Scottish textiles industry is to realise significant additional growth in Europe and the Middle East, it will be essential for government, stakeholders and companies to work together to achieve better market access. Some of the common barriers to export relevant to Europe and the Middle East are as follows:

  • There is a need to increase knowledge of market trends, routes to market and labelling, packaging and documentation requirements.

  • Accessing some opportunities directly will also require investment in language skills and relationship building, including options such as long term investment in direct relationships or representation in selected markets

  • There needs to be alignment behind a Scotland brand which should be used internationally to support the quality, heritage and provenance messages.


Based on analysis of the market and sub-sector opportunities and Scotland’s capability to exploit these, it is proposed that the industry’s international strategy for Europe and the Middle East is based on the following approach:


High-end retailers and brands, focusing on France and Germany and Italy and select best opportunities, build relationships and develop tailored action plans.


  • Commercial, residential and hospitality – identify and target interior designers, luxury hotel groups, and independents which offer the best prospects for Scotland. These could be pan-Europe and are not dependent on the location of a particular project.

  • Further develop existing research into UAE to contact and establish direct relationships with key influencers in the Architect and Design sectors.

Performance Textiles

  • Interior Transportation Solutions - focused on Rail Interiors with Germany as a hub, target best prospect designers and fit out companies and build relationships based on existing knowledge of the market drivers.

  • Europe is a hub opportunity for performance textiles.

  • Protective clothing – research into Scotland’s assets and then develop a plan to maximise any identified opportunities


  • The strategic priority for transport is rail Interiors.

  • Monitor potential opportunities and possible collaborative approach to other commercial and leisure transport sectors.

Individual companies will continue to pursue other opportunities - for example in technical textiles and interiors - and the potential for a wider industry approach will be kept under review.

The Europe and Middle East market plan sets out the actions required to progress the strategic priorities over the next 3 years.

1 Source: Marketline 2012

2 Scottish Textiles in the French, German and Italian Markets, Welstead SARL, Dec 2012


4 Interior Textiles Market Research, Upper Quartile, 2013

5 Future of Fabrics & Soft Furnishings Products in France to 2015: Market Profile Published Sep 2011 © World Market Intelligence.

6 Conceptual Living 2014 management report, Heimtextil

7 Marketline/Datamonitor 2013

8 Frost & Sullivan 2010

9 Assoc. Of the European Rail Industry (UNIFE)/Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

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