The global apparel market was valued at US$1.7 billion in 2012. Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, value sales registered a robust growth rate of 6%.
While the global apparel market continues on its path to recovery, regional trends paint a mixed picture.
Apparel remains largely a discretionary purchase compared to other consumer goods, making it more prone to economic shocks.The market has shown significant recovery from the 2008/2009 slowdown, with robust growth in emerging markets outshining persistent developed market weakness.
The global apparel market has been shaped by three contrasting regional movements - robust growth in emerging markets, fragile recovery in the US, and a sharp slowdown in Western Europe.
As internet retailing grows in importance, the medium has becomes more nuanced. Notable developments include the growth of curation-driven sites, m-commerce, and s-commerce.
Despite a relatively low percentage of its total population using the internet, Asia Pacific boasts some of the most tech-savvy consumers globally. The e-commerce explosion has been particularly pronounced in China, where the channel's share more than doubled from 3% in 2011 to 7% in 2012.
Although the convenience factor is the primary driver of internet sales, the prevalence of discounts online has also added to the channel's appeal. The primary challenge to growth in emerging markets remains the prevalence of cash culture, and caution over sharing credit card details online.
With the online channel stealing market share, apparel specialist retailers and department stores have been investing heavily in creating compelling in-store environments and services to rebuild their appeal.
Apparel sales through the grocery retailer channel have grown by US$86 million over the past decade. The greatest absolute growth was witnessed in Asia Pacific, where the channel accounted for 10% of apparel value sales in 2012, up from 5% in 2002.
The increase came largely from the supermarket/hypermarket channels, as they continue to extend their geographic reach and invest heavily in their clothing and footwear offering.
In developed markets, recessionary conditions have prompted consumers to seek value options, benefiting grocery private label.The UK has one the strongest private label shares in apparel due to the strength of grocery retailers in this market. Sainsbury's private label brand TU outpaced the supermarket chain's wider performance, growing three times as fast as the food division in Q4 2012.
Moving forward, Asia-Pacific will remain the world's largest regional apparel market through to 2017. The region will see apparel sales grow by US$175 billion over the next five years.
Western Europe is forecast to decline further in significance in terms of value sales, with even North America overtaking it by 2017. However, it will retain its strategic importance to the apparel industry, due to its established position at the forefront of fashion design and tourism.
For more information on the global apparel market, see the latest research: Global Apparel Market
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