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Colombia Makes Strides as Cost Effective, Efficient Sourcing Locale

With nearshoring becoming the new offshoring, countries like Colombia are picking up on increased demand from the U.S.

At an event commemorating the fifth anniversary of the United States-Colombia free trade agreement in New York City last month, manufacturers from the country found favorable interest from companies looking to source in Colombia.

“The U.S. market is very interesting for Colombia since volume and variety offer possibilities for the Colombian suppliers,” said Juan Diego Calle of Crystal Hosiery, an exhibitor at the event. “Today is a crucial moment since the private brands and retailers in the USA are looking for quick fashion, less quantities of production and quick response to lower their inventories and markdown risks.”

(Read more about Colombia’s capabilities: Why Colombia Will be Key to Sourcing in 2017)

And perhaps what has risen above as vital at a time when so much else in sourcing is uncertain, companies are looking to source in countries they’ll be able to count on long-term.

“Colombia is in a unique position to become a very important cog in the American garment industry,” said Dan Haime, who does international sales and marketing for Textilia, a fabric wholesaler based in Bogotá. “With the maturation of the TLC [the U.S.-Colombia FTA], the market’s understanding of how to best take advantage of free trade, coupled with the uncertainty that surrounds other manufacturing countries, buyers can focus on speed to market, direct communication in the same or similar time zone, and more competitively priced products than ever before. All this while knowing that programs created today will not be jeopardized in the future by macroeconomic hurdles.”

More than 40 buyers, from companies like Bonobos, J.C. Penney, Untuckit and Diesel, participated in customized showroom meetings with vendors and mills looking to capitalize on Colombia’s opportunities, many of them searching for new product developments, innovation, expertise and full package offerings, according to Procolombia, which hosted the event.

For Isidoro Funes of twill and denim fabric manufacturer CI El Globo, this way of presenting Colombian products to the U.S. consumer was a “home run.”

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“It will be great if we have the same meetings at least four times per year in order to grow the Colombian exports,” Funes said.

Colombia has been known for its quality and its quick turn, and more specifically, for its advancements in athletic and performance wear, a category Haime said has become the most important in the garment sector.

“It is what people wear more than anything else,” he said, adding that his company has taken heed of what its customers are seeking. The company is already working on its Fall Winter ’18 product, which will include a greater presence of spun polyester fabrics for true athletic functionality, more spandex blended with already comfortable fabrics to further improve drape and movement, and more polyester and polyester-based fabrics that will allow wearers to take advantage of developments in finishing technologies aimed at the athletic performance segment.

But beyond just its product, Colombia has positioned itself as a good business case when it comes to sourcing.

“Now is our chance as a country to grow in our exposure and show the world that Colombia is not only a great place to source fabric and full package goods but more specifically, a profitable and efficient place to source in this hemisphere,” Haime said.