China’s 1.3 billion population constitutes a huge market for garments, and one that is growing year by year. According to figures released by Euromonitor, China’s adult garment market was worth around RMB1,571.7 billion in 2018, an increase of 7.8% year-on-year. Market value is expected to reach RMB1,725.8 billion by 2020.
Chinese garment brands can be divided into two major categories. The first comprises upmarket brands, targeted at consumers from high-income groups with growing spending power, an increasing taste for luxury and high-end brands, and a concern for garment quality and shopping experience. The second adopts a mass market strategy and, like Uniqlo, Zara and H&M, offers affordable and trendy garments especially favoured by young consumers.
Women’s garment market: Euromonitor data reveals that the Chinese women’s garment market was worth around RMB999.1 billion in 2018, an increase of 7.6% over the previous year. Of this, women’s underwear showed the fastest growth, with a 9.5% increase, followed by swimwear (9.4%) and pyjamas (9.2%). Market value is expected to reach RMB1,196.1 billion by 2022. The demand from mainland women for clothing with personal style is on the rise, with designer labels gaining increasing popularity.
Men’s garment market: The consumer market for men’s garments is undergoing a growth period. According to Euromonitor data, the men’s garment market in China was worth RMB572.6 billion in 2018, an annual increase of 6.5%. Of this, men’s upmarket jeans showed the fastest growth with an increase of 9%. Market value is expected to reach RMB670.9 billion by 2022. As men are becoming more particular about their appearance than before, they are seeking on-trend clothing, which has in turn boosted demand for high quality garments. In recent years, trendy sports casual wear is gaining popularity in the men’s garment market.
Children’s garment market: According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2018 there were about 250 million children under the age of 15 in China. Moreover, 15.23 million babies were born. This underscores the likely colossal size of the children’s garment market in the next few years. According to Euromonitor data, the mainland children’s garment market was worth RMB209.1 billion in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 16.2%. Of this, baby garments showed the fastest growth with a 20.1% increase. According to a market survey conducted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) on China’s infant and children’s clothing market in 2017, respondents generally indicated a preference for shopping at physical shops in spite of the growing online market. The reason they gave was that at physical shops they could personally feel the quality and thickness of garments and avoid the problem of colour discrepancy, which may occur in online shopping. Product materials and safety designs were their primary considerations.
Casual wear market: As the economy grows, mainland consumers’ demand for casual wear is on the rise and casual wear categories are also changing and evolving continuously. Casual wear targeted at the mass market is getting more fashion oriented, fashion casual wear is getting more style oriented, sports casual wear is becoming more thematic, business casual wear is becoming more youth oriented, outdoor casual wear is getting more everyday-life oriented, and denim casual wear is getting more personalised. Presently, the Chinese casual wear market has a low degree of concentration and there is a host of mainland and international brands. International clothing brands, such as Uniqlo, which are known for their trendiness, large variety of styles and short lead times, have successively entered the mainland casual wear market, making competition ever fiercer.
Sportswear market: From Adidas, Nike, Puma, Li Ning and Anta to Qiaodan, 361 Degrees and Xtep, the sportswear market has posted rapid growth in the last few years. Euromonitor figures reveal that the size of the Chinese sportswear market grew 19.5% year-on-year to RMB264.8 billion in 2018. According to market statistics, professional sportswear makes up one-third of the sportswear market in China. As mainlanders are becoming more health conscious and doing more exercises, the professional sportswear market is poised for further growth.
Custom-made clothing market: Growing numbers of mainland middle-class consumers are seeking personalised custom-made clothing as their lifestyles improve. Some consumers with specific requirements on garment quality are keen to use a more customisable service. According to a survey conducted by HKTDC on mainland middle-class consumption, the largest proportion of respondents had ordered custom-made clothing among different categories of bespoke products. Presently, the bespoke tailoring market on the mainland is just starting to take off. As it represents relatively high-end consumption, it can command higher price premiums.
As profit margins get slimmer, the development of innovative technologies has become an increasingly important feature of competition among companies. For example, some garment brands are forming strategic partnerships with upstream manufacturers of simulation functional fibres. This gives rise to the gradual trend of upstream innovation in raw materials setting the course of fashion trends at the user end. Given that simulation functional fibres can ensure the attractiveness and comfort of garments while also catering to environmental and safety concerns, they enjoy obvious advantages over natural fibres in terms of price-performance ratio.