The fashion industry faces multiple challenges
The global fashion market weighed in at $1.378 billion in 2015, with a turnover of 1.237 billion euros, according to the Global Investor study released by Credit Suisse, titled 'Fashion - Beyond Apparel,' a figure on par with Spain's total GDP in 2014.
The sector is being driven by fast fashion chains, lead by Spanish giant Inditex (Zara) with revenues of $20.3 billion (18.2 billion euros), followed by Sweden's H&M ($17.9 billion), America's Gap ($16.4 billion) and Japan's Fast Retailing (Uniqlo) with sales reaching $13.9 billion.
"The brands which will know how to overcome the challenges of fast fashion, introducing new and on-trend products into their stores each week, will most likely be sector leaders in the years to come," said the study.
Also noted by the authors in the report, "six of the ten largest global distributors of their own clothing brands are American. In 2014, these global sales hit $51 billion (45.8 billion euros)."
After market leader Gap, the U.S. firms that follow include Limited Brands, PVH, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle Outfitters.
The report authors emphasised that the rising power of the middle class in emerging nations has played a crucial role in the acceleration of the development of fast fashion brands, such as 15 percent of H&M's 2014 sales coming from emerging markets.
The report also highlighted the growing role of digital and e-commerce. In the U.S., 25 percent of clothing sales took place on the Web. Beyond e-commerce, consumers have never held such a dominant position thanks to the Web, which allows them to express their opinion and frequently change trends, stated the report.
Another major trend: the importance of sustainable development as companies adopt a socially responsible attitude, which is increasing at the same rate as consumer awareness of the issue.
For fashion firms, investing in sustainable development can also prove lucrative, seeing that a growing number of consumers are ready to pay more for products that have less impact on the environment — nearly 55 percent, according to the research performed by Credit Suisse.
Therefore, the production cycle remains a crucial element, which looks to increasingly determine the success of fashion companies.
Digital technologies are revolutionising the fashion industry with a number of new materials and new printing techniques, as witnessed by the use of 3D tools. More specifically, they accelerate the rate of production. "But designers and entrepreneurs must preserve the soul of the product," warned the report.
Looking at fashion's geographic markets, China and the European Union are the two main global exporters of clothes, together accounting for almost two-thirds of world exports.
China sits at the top with 38.6 percent of total exports, followed by Europe with 25.6 percent (the figures refer to 2013).
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