Overview of the Clothing & Accessories Sector
Clothing is part of the clothing and textile industry. The clothing and textile industry within the European Union alone has a turnover of more than 2 billion Euros and employs significant numbers of people. Like most manufacturing, clothing and textile manufacture is subject to legislation that protects the staff in the industry, ensures safety of consumers and adherence to environmental regulations.
Companies that operate in the clothing manufacturing process, whether they are raw materials handlers, yarn producers or end clothing manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers have to adhere to regulations. In recent years, there has been a great deal more publicity surrounding the working conditions of textile workers in places such as India, Bangladesh and China. Companies whose headquarters are generally in the western world have been criticised after exposes have highlighted how poorly treated the employees are and how child labour is being used to mass produce clothing. Many of these western companies have made changes to their supplier management processes to better audit and control working practices of their suppliers.
It may be argued that retailers are merely trying to keep up with the demand from consumers for cheap fashionable clothing. Therefore, the outsourcing of clothing manufacture to countries such as India and China is inevitable. However, there are some companies retaining or onshoring the manufacture of clothing back to Europe and the UK. Demand for British made goods has risen in China where iconic British brands are growing in recognition and status.
Another interesting dynamic of the clothing industry is the rise of online shopping for clothes. Making purchases online for clothing is becoming easier. Improvements in website design and graphics have made vast inroads into taking the guess work out of internet clothing shopping. The use of more accurate colouring and easier site navigation tools means that the consumer is generally more certain of what it is exactly that they are buying. Of course, the distant selling regulations still apply in the UK, which means that purchases online can be returned within 7 days for a full refund (subject to certain restrictions of products).
High street retailers have an advantage over stores that only sell online, in that consumers can see, touch and feel products when the are in a store. Often, retailers will offer free delivery of goods to a local store. Consumers have the benefit of being able to secure online deals, in the knowledge they can try on items in store at a future date. They may decide to keep and purchase the item, but if they choose not to purchase an item there usually no return charges. Large shopping channels that first began operating on the television have website stores, offering long return guarantees. The ability to try items at home with the rest of your wardrobe is a great way to shop for clothing and shoes.
There can be frustrations with purchasing of clothing online when the technology and graphics of a site fail to meet expectations. To get a clear idea of colour, texture and print is wonderful when it works, but when it doesn’t the consumer is taking a risk, the blue of the dress may turn out to be turquoise in reality. Also, unless as a consumer, we have a prior insight into how well a particular retailer’s clothing fits, sizing can be difficult to gauge through a website.
Online retailers of clothing recognise the weakness of not being able to try an item on before clicking “buy”. Previous customer reviews of items, giving the prospective purchaser an idea on quality, sizing, fit etc are extremely powerful. Reviews that give comparisons with other retailers items related to how a piece of clothing is sized can be really helpful and take out some of the guess work.
Many niche clothing suppliers have found that online selling is the best way to market, removing the uncertainty of how well a traditional shop will do in the high street whose foot fall is limited to a geographical region. Specialist clothing providers through the internet have a potential global market place in which to operate, where niche products can become demanded in greater numbers around the world.