SYRIA. Syrian people are often labeled ‘fashion followers’ as they tend to spend a great amount of time visiting fashion stores to choose whatever is trendy and stylish. Making the right choice of catchy clothes, however, has become a hard task because the Syrian market is currently stuffed with every kind of goods that range from brand names, Chinese imports to national products.
Prices posted on these items vacillates between cheap, considerable and incredibly expensive. In comparison, prices of brand stores in Syria seem to be higher than any other international branch , especially over the period of discounts and big sales, where the equation of supply and demand seem to lose its balance. New collections which dazzle the eyes of every viewer for its elegancy, also dazzles he eyes of viewers for its high price, the fact that makes buying anything from these stores a dream for the average Syrian who earns $ 300 salary per month.
High taxation accompanies every imported item, the minute it enters Syria, and remains its inseparable intimate friend until the period of big sale. According to The Customs Office, responsible for these operations, some 60% of the original price of any imported item is added as a tax, which makes the overall price quite high. The 60% tax include other expenditures that are: 4% tax to financial costs, 5% local administration, and 2% expenditure tariffs. All together, the tax is estimated to amount SYP 1200 for every imported one Kilogram retail.
“The high taxation set by the Costumes Office on the imported goods upset trades men for causing them troubles to sell these expensive stuff in the Syrian market and achieve the desired profit,” said one Costume Officer, “Government’s decision to force taxation is made on purpose; to avoid threaten the national industry and placing a competitor to its usual client- namely the middle and low class Syrians, ” he explained.
However, brand clothes do not have ‘the same expected high price’ as not all of them are imported. Long ago, the Syrian government banned external trade to protect national products. Governments’ first step towards legalizing imports was to legalize under license brands- those that are made and tailored in Syria but are designed according to international standards set by the main company, with a considerable price, still higher to the local products.
Imported clothes, however, are chosen carefully by retailers.”In general, we choose the designs, colors, and everything related to the items we want to display inside our galleries in Syria,” said a brand store owner, “societies of the Orient are inclined to choose whatever is conservative and classical, therefore the company itself separates between items that are to be sold in this part of the world and items displayed in the West, which tend to be bold and daring,” he explains.
Who is surviving the period of recession?
The global economic crisis, which has paralyzed every kind of industry, had influenced all countries worldwide. Some, like Syria, were less influenced because of limited exposure of investment to the West, yet, retailers were not able to keep up their margin of profit safely without damages. Society’s high and middle classes form the 95% of brand store’s clients.
Due to recession, this fact has pushed the middle class to buy cheaper clothes. “In the past, I was able to buy a SYP 3000 jeans from my favorite Mango store,” said Mona Salam, a middle-aged teacher, “Now I’m unable to afford anything like this, not because the price of the jeans got higher, but because life essentials became too expensive. So, I either have to await the big sale, or forget all about it.” She added.
The announcement of the big sale is usually decided by the company of origin to be applied on her branches worldwide. As a principal, sales and discounts are announced after selling 70% of the collection enacting stimulus packages to get rid of whatever is remained in the warehouse. The recession has turned this equation upside down. The majority of the Syrian stores were not able to get rid of 50% of the goods, the matter that forced them to postpone the sale time, as a last roll of dice to rescue their pockets from greater losses.A promising future?
National products had always been accessible at a good snap of bargain to society’s low and middle classes. Unfortunately, the quality of these clothes is diagnosed to be much less to its imported counterpart. The Free Trade Market, which Syria is working hard to join, is a good solution to this problem because it will urge producers to improve the quality of their products to compete with others.
“In my opinion, joining The Free Trade Market would raise the volume of the national exports, simply because they would be exported to the receiving country for no custom tariffs, and that would foster the Gross Domestic Product in Syria,” said Hamzeh Hamzeh a senior officer at the Office of Economy, “In comparison between 2007 and 2008, Syrian imports hit a staggering increase, because the government had legalized direct imports from China starting 2008, which is currently threatening the national production of clothes”.
Looking to the market of clothes from a different perspective, brand store owners think that the marketing culture in Syria is still in its preliminary stages. Marketing tends to increase the awareness amongst people of different strata to understand fashion in a proper manner.”Lebanese channels have some amazing programs to show people how to dress up, what to choose and where to buy from. The only way I have to advertise for sales and new collections is via bulletin boards, magazines, and radio channels, which attract a limited number of people,” commented a brand store owner, “I hope that we can overcome the challenges we are facing now and conduct a better retail trade in the future”.