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5th December 2017, Turkey

Turkey meets 10% of world socks demand

Hasan Gulveren reports

Turkey has crossed Italy in socks exports and rose to second place after China. The country is the second largest exporter of socks, accounting for 10% of world socks imports in 2016, following China, the world’s largest socks maker, which meets 40% of the world socks exports alone, according to Ozkan Karaca.

Turkish socks industry is an important player in the world’s socks market, with its modern machinery park, and high production and export capacity. Istanbul is the main production centre, with 85% of the factories operating in the city.

Turkish socks industry is an important player in the world’s socks market. © Hasan Gulveren

There are more than 300 socks factories in Turkey with medium and large-scale production capabilities. In addition, there are many small-scale workshops that manufacture for the internal market.

It is estimated that 2.2 billion pairs of socks and 300 million pieces of pantyhose are produced annually in Turkey. Turkey’s largest socks manufacturers in 2016, according to the Industrial Chamber for Istanbul (ISO), included: Penti Corap, with net sales of US$ 55 million, Beks Corap, with net sales of US$ 51 million, Altin Iplik Corap, with net sales of US$ 41 million, and Bony Corap, with net sales of US$ 40 million.

Turkey exports 75% of its production

Turkish socks industry is an export-oriented sector, with 75% of socks produced in the country being exported. The industry is exporting an average of US$ 86 million worth of socks every month. The EU ranks first in exports, with 85% of socks going to EU countries in 2016. The three largest buyers are UK, Germany and France.

It is estimated that 2.2 billion pairs of socks and 300 million pieces of pantyhose are produced annually in Turkey. © Hasan Gulveren

According to records of the Turkish Statistical Institute, in 2016, Turkey exported 1.5 billion pairs of socks and 146.5 million pieces of pantyhose, worth US$ 1 billion 36 million. Of these socks, 1.2 billion pairs are made of cotton. When we look at the January-October period of 2017, it is seen that total socks exports amount to US$ 862.5 million. In the same period of the previous year, these exports amounted to US$ 866.9 million. In the first 10 months of this year, a decrease of US$ 4.4 million has occurred.

The total exports of socks totalling US$ 1 billion 36 million in 2016 amounted to US$ 251.6 million. With these exports in 2016, UK is the first with a share of 24.3% in Turkey's total sock exports. United Kingdom was followed by Germany (21.6%) with exports of US$ 224 million. France (10.7%) was in third place with US$ 110.8 million. The share of these three countries in total sock exports was 56.6%.

Turkey reached the highest export figure in history, with the export of US$ 1.2 billion worth of socks, in 2014. After this date, exports started to decline. In 2015, the number reached 1 billion 24 million. In 2016, it increased slightly to US$ 1 billion 36 million.

Target markets: US and Japan

Producers of Turkish socks are developing projects to increase their exports. The Socks Committee, which is preparing projects to increase socks exports within the Istanbul Apparel Exporters Union, is carrying out intensive studies for this purpose.

Ozkan Karaca. © Hasan Gulveren

Ozkan Karaca, who chaired this committee, stated that the two countries were identified as the target market. Explaining that they are the USA and Japan, Karaca said: “The US is the world's largest importer of socks by importing socks of US$ 2.2 billion annually. Germany is second with US$ 1 billion 20 million imports, and Japan comes third with about US$ 1 billion socks imports. In two countries other than Germany, namely the USA and Japan, our market share is low. We need to increase this.

“We started joining the Las Wegas Magic Show in the US as exporters of socks,” he said. “And we started to get good results from this show. We are also attending the Shanghai International Hosiery Purchasing Expo in China, the largest sock supplier in the US. This fair is a good platform where both US buyers, as well as buyers from Japan and Australia, come. By participating in this exhibition, we are trying to get a chance to enter these markets. Our goal is to be able to get more shares in the world's largest market than the US and to put the US into the top five of the countries where we export the most socks.”

Özkan Karaca said that by 2020, they aim to export US$ 100 million worth of products to the US market and that they would like to make Turkey one of the five biggest export destinations.

Turkey and China in competition

Turkey and China, which export 85% of their exports to EU countries, are experiencing intense competition in this market. When we look at the situation of the two countries in the EU market, it seems that China is slightly ahead of Turkey. According to Eurostat, the difference between the two countries according to the export figures for 2016 is US$ 43 million.

Ozkan Karaca. © Hasan Gulveren

Özkan Karaca stated that he was the first in the EU market offering the price advantage over Chinese produce. According to Karaca, and the most important advantage of the socks made in Turkey is that they are three hours away from the EU and can be delivered in a short time of around three days. The disadvantage is that most of the socks factories operate in Istanbul, where the labour, input and production costs are high. According to Karaca, Turkish socks workers should establish factories in Anatolia where government support is at hand and labour and input costs are low. “At this point, it can come to a level where it can compete with China in price maintenance,” he said.

Socks technology in Turkey

Turkish socks industry mainly uses Italian socks machines. Since 2000, however, the range has increased with the introduction of Far Eastern sock machines. In 2000, machinery imports from Japan were at the highest, followed by Taiwan, South Korea, and later China. Yet, Italian technology continues to dominate the Turkish market.

From 2000 to 2016, around 45,000 sock machines entered Turkey, both new and second hand. Some of these machines were previously used by European manufacturers.

Turkey shows interest in toe-closing machines

Although Turkey has been using a lot of used hosiery machines since 2000, the companies have been investing in younger and higher technology hosiery machines in the last 10 years as part of the modernisation process.

Ozkan Karaca. © Hasan Gulveren

In recent years, thousands of machines have been imported, especially from Italy. According to the information we have, up to 8300 toe-closure socks machines, including machines by Santoni, have now entered Turkey, making it the country that has invested the most in the technology so far.

The main reason for this is to make production more efficient. In addition, the increase in labour costs and the difficulty in finding qualified personnel have increased the interest of companies in their high-tech nasal implanted machines.

Turkey’s sock investments go on

The socks machinery imports in Turkey continue unceasingly. In the first 10 months of 2017, a total of 1,744 sock machines worth US$ 32.4 million were imported. 1,527 of them came from Italy.

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