Diversification and quality: the strategy behind the Portuguese textile industry’s transformation
The Portuguese textile industry is currently undergoing a transformation in order to recover from the pandemic and solidify its position as Europe’s leading partner for local textile production. While the industry’s high-volume production and competitive pricing have been critical to its success in recent years, Portugal aims to set itself apart from neighbouring regions such as Morocco or Turkey by focusing on producing high-quality products. To achieve this, Portugal is leveraging its well-established and highly skilled manufacturing industry to create products that adhere to the most stringent sustainability criteria.
“Nowadays, we are working with different types of brands than in the past. Our role has evolved. The brands and designers that now produce their products in Portugal are less fixated on price and are instead looking for sustainability,” said Ana Paula Dinis, executive director of the ATP (Associação Têxtil e Vestuário de Portugal). “We no longer offer solutions to brands that are only looking for low prices. This means that we have suffered in terms of volume of orders but have improved in terms of the quality of our products and clients,” she added.
According to the representative of the Portuguese textile association, customer diversification is crucial for the industry’s continued success. Factories have gone from working mainly with large companies or textile giants to working with emerging brands and designers who demand smaller quantities but that are in search of high-quality textiles and designs. This has led to higher purchase prices, meaning that total turnover has not been significantly affected. In addition, factories have become more independent as they are less subject to large orders.
A key industry for a relatively small market
Today, the Portuguese textile and clothing industry represents 9% of national exports (3% of EU textile and clothing exports) and accounts for 8% of turnover and 8% of production of the Portuguese manufacturing industry. Additionally, the sector employs up to 19% (128,600 people) of the manufacturing industry’s workforce.
In 2022, the sector’s overall export revenue reached 6.122 billion euros (914 million euros from home textiles, 1.660 billion euros from other textiles and 3.548 billion euros from clothing). This total figure represents a 13% increase from 2021, when the industry recorded 5.413 billion euros in export revenue, and a 17% increase from 2019, when the figure stood at 5.215 billion euros.