China suppliers forced to seek business beyond Western Europe

China suppliers are boosting overseas shipments to emerging markets amid slowing orders from the EU as the region tackles its debt crisis. This is according to a survey of 581 exporters by Global Sources. In the months ahead, 42 pc of survey respondents expect to strengthen their footholds in South and Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Craig Pepples, Global Sources’ President of Corporate Affairs, said:

“China suppliers are already taking proactive measures to sustain their export business in view of slowing orders from Europe. The majority of surveyed suppliers said their exports have been impacted by the debt crisis. Companies are cautiously optimistic about sales in 2012, with more than 60 percent expecting stable or higher export sales from their Europe business in the year ahead.”

Suppliers are particularly optimistic about markets in Asia, mainly because of China’s free trade agreement with many countries in the region. Close to 20 percent of interviewed companies plan to increase their presence in the China domestic market, as consumption has been on the rise, due in part to favourable government policies.

Nearly all respondents have felt the effects of Europe’s debt crisis on exports. Thirty-five percent of companies report significant impact, while almost 60 percent said there has been some impact. Europe shipments for 66 percent of surveyed manufacturers have dropped in the past few months. Twenty-two percent said their exports were stable and the rest reported an increase.

Survey results indicate Europe buyers are placing smaller orders, as they are wary of building up inventory. This is particularly evident in the computer, consumer electronics and communications industries, with almost 60 percent of suppliers reporting smaller shipments.

In addition, more customers are negotiating for lower quotes at a time when spending for materials, components and labor is climbing, thereby eroding margins. This trend is more apparent in low-value products such as garments and fashion accessories. Some suppliers are also reporting a decrease in demand for upscale products and more interest in entry-level models.

China suppliers are already responding to buyers’ changing requirements. Over 45 percent of companies said they could offer flexible pricing options, while 31 percent are willing to lower their minimum order quantities. In response to buyers’ need for value-for-money products, many exporters plan to enhance their current models with value add-ons. Almost 20 percent are planning to release more basic or low-end models.

As the possibility of an economic contraction looms over Europe, China suppliers are cautiously optimistic in their export projections. A modest 29 percent expect shipments to Europe to rise in 2012, while 34 percent expect revenue to remain unchanged. Close to 40 percent, however, foresee exports to the region falling further. Most of these companies expect shipments to drop between 10 and 20 percent.

Europe is nonetheless expected to remain a primary overseas destination for China exporters.

* The survey was conducted from Nov. 4 to 11 by email. A total of 581 suppliers were interviewed from various industries. Nearly half of the respondents are based in Guangdong province.

About the Author

The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.

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