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PRC apparel market to see $60-bn contraction: survey

Jun '20
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
More than 75 per cent of Chinese consumers reduced or postponed purchases on apparel and footwear and their total spending decreased by 45 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, according to a latest survey by New York-based global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, which found there was little retaliatory spending in April and May. The largest apparel market is expected to see a 15 per cent contraction in 2020, equivalent to about $60 billion in market value.

On the bright side, the survey found that consumer spending would probably return to its 2019 level in the second half of 2020.

“It is going to be a turbulent year, with structural and longer-term shifts in the apparel and footwear market in China,” said Imke Wouters, partner of Oliver Wyman, who led the survey.

“Despite the industry downturn, we are seeing the further growth of e-commerce, with an accelerated penetration into sub-segments, such as high-income customer groups. The post-COVID market is expected to be more polarized across income levels and city tiers,” an Oliver Wyman press release quoted him as saying.

The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the spending gap between the high and low-income groups. The low-income group tends to buy less and trade down for essentials. More than 70 per cent of the low-income survey respondents said they would prefer good value for money, and more than 60 per cent said they would purchase essentials only.

On the other hand, the respondents from the high-income group said they would trade up and go for both value and quality, with 54 per cent of them saying they would still look to buy products offering higher quality and functionality, and 56 per cent of them saying they also preferred items offering value for money.

Another key change brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak is how some shopping channels have fared better than others. With the shift to e-commerce accelerating with the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, Oliver Wyman predicts online channels could take up to half of the entire market in 2020, rising significantly from 34 per cent in 2019.

Traditionally favouring shopping for apparel and footwear in stores, shoppers from the high-income group have jumped to become the biggest online spenders during the outbreak, carrying out 64 per cent of their spending online. While some growth was seen in the share representing pure online shoppers, dominated by the younger generation, most of the survey respondents said that they would still like to do their shopping in multiple channels.

Thus, offline stores still have a useful role to play. Specifically, the survey indicates a relative rebound in certain brands’ offline stores for the remainder of the year. However, sales in department stores are not expected to come back robustly.

More than 40 per cent of the survey respondents said they would still like to try on the products they are interested in and make sure of their quality hands-on. In particular, new features such as new technologies, exclusive offline products, and personalised services would encourage more than 60 per cent of the respondents to visit and possibly make a purchase in an offline store in future.

The survey also found that the sportswear sector showed stronger resilience in its offline presence than the general apparel market. Compared to the average consumer, sportswear fans said that they intend to shop more at various sportswear brands’ own stores in the next one to two years.

“The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on China’s high-street fashion market has been material. We have seen the market recover to some extent as people’s lives have started getting back to normal, but retaliatory spending was not widely observed right after the outbreak began to subside. For the remainder of the year, we believe the market’s overall growth will still be lower than the historical level. Fashion retailers need to adjust their proposition to address consumers’ changing behaviours, rationalize their store networks, and take cost-control initiatives to minimize their losses while also prepare for the future,” added Wouters.

The survey was fielded between April 30 and May 12 and covered 1,000 consumers in China who had purchased apparel and footwear products in 2019.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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