Sri Lanka's Bernard Botejue Industries has opened a marketing office in the US to directly target US buyers and start marketing their own brand apparel designs.

At the start of this year the company started operations of Mount Sunshine, its marketing office in Los Angeles. And in addition to attracting orders to its factories, Mount Sunshine will be used as a launch pad for Bernard's own brand apparel designs in the US.

"We will come up with our own brand name. We are already developing our own designs and collections," said managing director of Bernard Botejue Industries, Janaka Botejue.

Bernard's is also planning a second marketing office in Europe.

"The marketing office in LA is very recent, but the reaction has been very good. So, once things get going in LA, we are thinking of setting up another marketing office somewhere in Europe, most probably in the UK," said Mr Botejue.

Europe is the presently the company's main export destination but Bernard's is hoping to expand exports to the US.

"Right now about 15% to 20% of our total exports go into the US. This is mainly because our European market has grown after Sri Lanka got the GSP+ scheme. So we are trying to distribute our exports at around 50:50 between the US and the EU," said Botejue.

In addition to marketing Bernard's products, Mount Sunshine in LA will also take on marketing for other Sri Lankan garment manufacturers that do not have physical presence in the US.

The company says the economic slowdown in the US has so far not impacted orders. Its clients include names like Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Adams, Boots, Crocs, Kohls, Gap, Reebok and Academy.

Bernard's, which began operations in 1948 manufacturing men's vests for the local market in competition with imported British vests, is by now one of the oldest survivors of the garment industry in Sri Lanka.

Celebrating 60 years in the apparel manufacturing business this year, the company says it will focus on "international trading" as the future growth plan.

"The future lies in international trading. That's our game plan," said Botejue.
The knitwear manufacturer has two garment factories located in Kolonna and Hambantota, employing around 1,000 people. Its factories are 100% export-oriented, manufacturing children's wear, ladies wear and underwear for brands in the US and the EU.