Bangladesh should focus more on value added, high-end apparel items rather than basic, traditional products to make the business sustainable amidst the fierce competition in the global garment trade, a group of European garment buyers said yesterday.The European fashion market is rebounding as the retail sales of garment items have been increasing by 3-4 percent year-on-year over the last few years, the retailers said.The sale of denim products is especially on the rise, said Serge Leon, a freelance adviser to the Modint, a European clothing brand.Bangladesh’s performance with denim has been very strong having already overtaken China and capturing 21.8 percent of the market share, so this is a new opportunity, Leon said.Bangladesh exports over $1 billion-worth denim products to European markets in a year and one out of every three jeans being worn is from Bangladesh.Had the country exported more value added items, Bangladesh could have earned $35 billion from the same quantity of goods sold for $28 billion in 2015-16, he said.The cost of production in Bangladesh has been increasing and the price of basic garment items is not so high. So, value added items can make the business more sustainable for Bangladesh, Leon said. Bangladesh’s opportunity has been increasing in European markets as China, the world’s largest apparel supplier, is losing its global market share due to a dearth of skilled manpower and higher cost of production, he said.European customers have been increasing their spending on clothing items in recent years with the rebounding of economies, Leon said.Europe is the largest garment export destination for Bangladesh. Nearly 64 percent or nearly $18 billion worth of garment items were shipped to Europe in the last fiscal year.Leon also spoke about some homework which Bangladesh needs to complete to attract more international retailers and brands and to grab more of the global market share. Bangladesh now has factories which are very much compliant with regulations, he said.This was a result of inspections carried out by the Accord and Alliance, two foreign inspection, remediation and monitoring agencies for repairing the fire, structural and electricalin nearly 3,800 garment factories.“This is a very positive side of Bangladesh,” Leon said. Bangladesh should keep up the good job of remediation as any bad news goes viral worldwide due to the widespread reach of social media. For instance, European customers were able to immediately know about the boiler explosion at Multifabs in Bangladesh, he said.The end customers do not want to see these kinds of explosions, collapse of buildings and deaths of workers. The customers want to know about the environmental impact of industrial production in Bangladesh.Leon’s comments came on the sidelines of a daylong meeting of retailers and manufacturers at Lakeshore Hotel in Dhaka.Nearly 15 European clothing retailers like G-Star, Tricorp, Hema and Knits Only took part in the meeting.This is the second meeting in Dhaka this year and more such gatherings will take place in Dhaka next year.The programme was organised by the CBI project, an initiative of the Dutch foreign ministry to boost imports from developing countries.Dhyana van der Pols, programme manager of CBI, said the 28 Bangladeshi garment companies which participated at the event would go to Premiere Vision—a highly regarded trade show in Paris—in September. The compliance rate in all these factories is 90 percent, she said.The political storm in Europe is over after the election in major countries like the UK, the Netherlands and France, Pols said. The consumers’ confidence is rebounding with the recovery of major economies in Europe, she said.Such events help direct businesses between retailers and manufacturers, she said. In case of Bangladesh, a good percentage of garment businesses are carried out by a third party or through buying houses, causing manufacturers to lose out on profits they could have attained.“We do not get fair prices from the retailers and brands. We will go for the value added items,” said Faruque Hassan, vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, in his inaugural speech.Ambassador of the Netherlands in Bangladesh Leoni Margaretha Cuelenaere inaugurated the event.