Looking presentable is important in every aspect of life, and these days one's wardrobe is key to making a favourable impression on the world. There is something for every occasion and place- evening wear, office wear, party wear, bridal wear, festive wear, casual wear; the list is endless. Unfortunately, with the recent economic downturn, the apparel market registered a downfall in sales and this trend has not changed even during holiday seasons. The holiday season last year did not augur well for the apparel and textile sector, but hopes are high that this will change for the better this time as consumers have now started adjusting to the economic slowdown. This is already evident from the fact that the apparel market has witnessed better sales this financial year than in the previous one.


The major reason for decline in apparel sales has been the inclination of buyers towards gadgets. People's salary growth has been sluggish, and this has compelled buyers to make a choice between gadgets and clothing. But this year has been promising for apparel sales due to improved personal finances. According to Accenture's annual holiday shopping survey, the apparel market can expect at least 25 per cent consumers to spend more on shopping this year compared to only 20 per cent in 2013.


The sales and profit margins of many retail apparel brands have dipped, which has encouraged some stores to concentrate on price tags. Retail stores have chalked out a detailed plan to allure customers this holiday season by working on improving the in-store experience for shoppers and by relying on some key fashion trends this season. Faux denim in colours like gray and burgundy, shirts with social media friendly messages, and shirts and tops in plaid- these are just some of the things that will be presented to shoppers as part of this revamp. Another strategy that retailers are employing to boost apparel sales is by simultaneously offering discounts and investing in promotions. In the United States, discount offers by retail apparel stores managed to coax customers to shell out money in the last holiday season. Inspired by the success of their American counterparts, retailers around the world are working on this approach.


According to the Popsugar Insights Q3 retail-apparel study, an estimated 47 percent of women in America find inspiration from a brick-and-mortar store to get their perfect apparel. This study also reveals that around 42 percent of women buy holiday clothing after going through blogs and websites, while approximately 31 percent of women find inspiration on social media streams. The eagerness of customers to buy apparel online has also increased significantly this year. The study also reveals that 43 percent of women plan to spend over half of their total apparel spending online during the upcoming holiday season. Online apparel shopping guarantees an uncluttered ambience unlike actual markets that are crowded during holidays. Moreover, apparel websites that offer free shipping of merchandise have witnessed increased e-shopping during holidays.

 

The apparel category that has become the preferred choice of buyers for holiday gifts is pyjamas and robes. This trend is more common in Australia, but retailers here are also observing a shift as some consumers are buying gifts that are not gender-specific like virtual gaming platforms, which has resulted in losses for the apparel sector. However, the sale of exclusive and expensive apparel items is rising as shoppers buy sweaters, coats and boots as gifts for close family members. An upsurge in demand for sheepskin woollens is expected this holiday season, especially in Australia and parts of Europe.


Among holiday gifts, gift cards offered by apparel retailers have become a favoured option for buyers to give to their friends and family. Gift cards are likely to keep up sales for the apparel sector even after the holiday season as shoppers can redeem the cards later and spend additional money on clothes. In order to earn customer loyalty, retail stores are extending an incentive to holiday gift card buyers to make additional purchases or to enrol in their loyalty card programmes. This helps stores to translate holiday enthusiasm into a brand relationship that continues to prove fruitful throughout the year. Analysts have also shared a generally positive outlook for the growth of the apparel sector in the holiday season of 2014, and apparel groups are expected to experience continued strength. Sales of womenswear will probably gain momentum in the next six months while the menswear market will also remain strong.


A Credit Suisse report says that the apparel inventory position for retailers has shown considerable improvement in the second quarter of 2014. This is likely to reverse the trend of 3.6 percent inventory growth. It is being presumed that the nine-month period of excessive markdown and margin degradation will finally come to an end with apparel sales picking up during the holidays.


Apparel has long been the numero uno category for shoppers during most holiday seasons, but the challenge for the sector lies in increasing its profit margin and attracting customers even without discounts. The global market research company Euromonitor International mentions in its report that after the recession, apparel unit prices hit a global decline of 5 percent, which has had a huge impact on profitability. The European Union is expecting a good start this holiday season, but profit margins will still be compromised due to the discount offers extended to boost sales.

 

The last holiday season was also affected by natural disasters like superstorm Sandy which hit the US in October 2012. The negative impact of this disaster continued through the holiday season of 2013-14. This year's story is likely to be different as the retail apparel sector gears up to attract customers and is doing its best to make the most out of it. Steady income, lower unemployment and higher customer confidence in the economy are factors likely to send buyers to retail stores and contribute to higher footfalls this season. The profitability of the apparel sector might not witness a complete transformation, but the increase in sales should be seen as a positive indication for the future.


References:


1. Mysanantonio.com

2. Newsroom.accenture.com

3. Insights.popsugar.com

4. Forbes.com

5. Marketwatch.com