Garment exporters in India have started getting orders again with the launch of the Covid-19 vaccination drive in all major markets, top suppliers to international brands such as Zara, H&M and Primarc said.

Fashion brands have started placing fresh orders for the summer-spring season, as they expect consumption in top European and North American markets to pick up in the next few weeks with the roll out of the vaccination, said Sanjay Jain, chief executive of Fashions which supplies to brands like Zara, WalmartMango and Superdry.

“We got our first order for the summer collection last week,” an executive at one of the largest apparel exporters to brands like H&M and Zara said, requesting anonymity.

This comes months after shipments were kept on hold, orders cancelled and payments were put on hold, as global retailers were in distress due to high number of coronavirus cases in most countries which led to lockdowns and low shopper turnout.

Global brands which were mostly relying on digital channels until now expect shoppers to be back in stores by March or April, and so have started building inventory cautiously, Jain added.

Pent-up demand and increased online sales are expected to give a boost to exports, he added.

The order volume, however, is nowhere close to the pre-Covid level as brands want to mitigate risk, exporters said.

“It will take time before populations are vaccinated; hence, companies are cautious,” said Rahul Mehta, chief mentor at the Clothing Manufacturers Association.

According to industry estimates, the global textile and apparel market was worth $1.9 trillion in 2019 and was projected to reach $3.3 trillion in 2030. Europe and the US contribute about 30% to the total apparel market and hence the launch of vaccination in these two regions has led to the increase in number of international orders, exporters said.

However, there has been a significant shift in demand from formal wear to casual wear.

Knee-length, T-shirt dresses and polos are among the clothing items that are seeing robust demand from Europe and the US, as the work-from-home model continues in most countries.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, the loungewear category of India’s Rs 53,000-crore knitwear export industry has seen demand increase in the range of 15-150%, according to exporters.

“We have witnessed unprecedented increase in demand for loungewear and sportswear during 2020 over the previous year. Loungewear category sales have increased by 150%,” said Arul Saravanan, chief marketing officer of SCM Garments, which specialises in knitwear garments.

The entire knitwear industry has witnessed this shift towards casual wear since the onset of the pandemic, with the export composition now changing from 50% casual and 50% formal to 70% casual and 30% formal.