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Focus on textiles: reduced frequency, reduced sales

by Petra Dillemuth , 23.07.2015

Another season to write off. Farmers lamented the shortage of water, while fashion retailers bemoaned the shortage of customers. Very few could report an increase in sales over the spring months from March to May. For most high street fashion retailers, the results of their clothing business were generally in the red. In contrast, the majority of non-specialist stores saw their figures improve. As did online retail, of course.

The mid-season sales in March were an ominous sign of what was to come. The season had barely started, and already some retailers were trying to entice the “absent” customers to their shops with price reductions. Many customers were somewhat amazed by the unexpected sales, while the more steadfast competitors (in terms of price) looked on in frustration. How could anyone possibly hope to sell jumpers, pants and other clothes at normal prices? The early reductions did not help the situation. Sales in March were negative. The industry only barely returned to the black in April. This was the first time in seven months. But this did not mark the start of a trend reversal. In the “merry month of May”, sales once again plummeted. As a result, textile retail closed the spring season slightly down on the same period of the prior year, while prices remained stable. As in previous years, goods sold at promotional prices made up around one third of sales.

Fewer items were sold in womenswear. The price level dropped in menswear. The two key product groups therefore reported a slight sales decline. Children's clothing performed a little worse. However, accessories were the hardest hit. Sales really slumped in this segment.

When compared with other clothing, underwear fared relatively well. Shoe sales were also good. Sales remained stable in both product groups. However, counter to the general trend, some product groups reported significant growth. For example, sports fashion performed very well this spring. The greatest success story was leather clothing, with the popularity of biker jackets and similar products generating a significant sales increase.

Interest in the latest spring fashion was lowest among the younger generation. Only the over 50s were inclined to shop more than in the previous year. Household income had very little influence on consumer behavior. Both the highest and lowest earning customers reduced their spending on clothes.

Despite the overall decline in spring, positive results were reported in some sales channels, such as discount clothing stores and some mono brand stores with own brands. Sales of shoe retailers were stable. Non-specialist retailers were also strong and even improved their textile sales, which was above all attributable to the higher average price of the goods being sold. Online retail continues its triumphant advance.

Department stores are not seeing a change in the trend. They have been unable to maintain the price level. As was the case in winter, sales declined significantly in spring.

One thing is clear: The retail landscape is shifting more than it has in quite some time. This is not only affecting department stores. Some online retailers are opening bricks & mortar shops and even buying trade fairs. Whether small or large, other fashion stores have to reposition themselves for the future. They must find a way to counter the falling customer numbers. They must increase the appeal of clothes shopping. The key to success for fashion retailers is in intelligently combining high street and online business. This is no easy task. What is certain is that the retail landscape of tomorrow will be quite different to what we see today.

Read more on this subject here: “Find the perfect outfit online”.

Please contact Petra Dillemuth at petra.dillemuth@gfk.com with any questions on market size, market developments, range shares, price levels and target groups.