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The Size of the Global Fashion Retail Market,USA and China spend by far the most on apparel


The global apparel retail market is currently worth $1.34 trillion in retail sales per year. If footwear and jewellery are included, that value rises to around $2 trillion.1. More than half of that spending goes on womenswear. The USA and China spend by far the most on apparel.

Key Takeaways

The global apparel market – not including footwear or jewellery – is worth $1.34 trillion a year in retail sales.

Womenswear accounts for more than half (53%) of that spending.

Ten national markets dominate retail, notching up 69% of all fashion sales, with the USA and China seeing the most spending.

Future growth in these markets is forecast to be modest or declining, except for India.

The apparel market today is worth around $1.3 trillion in retail sales globally per year1. The fashion retail sector alone – just clothes, not footwear or jewellery – is just a bit bigger than the Russian economy, or roughly equivalent to the combined GDP of the world’s 126 poorest countries.

Womenswear makes up more than half (53%) of global retail spending – or roughly $689 billion. By comparison, spending on men’s clothes and children’s clothes is relatively modest – 31% or $403 billion and 16% or $208 billion respectively.

Ten national markets dominate the fashion retail sector and together account for around 69%, or about $905 billion, of total global clothing retail spending. Despite this, these countries account for less than half of the world’s total population.

To put this into context, the amount of money that consumers spend on clothes, footwear and jewellery each year is the equivalent to the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of the 126 poorest countries in the world – or just slightly larger than the size of the Italian economy.

This huge amount of money spent on fashion results in mountains of clothes and shoes. It is estimated that around the world, about 107 billion units of apparel and 14.5 billion pairs of shoes were purchased in 2016. That equates to every person on the planet buying roughly 13 garments and two pairs of shoes, although buying patterns vary considerably between countries.

These figures are set to grow. The amount of items produced for the apparel market is expected to increase by 13% by 2021 – equating to roughly 13 billion extra units. Given that this outweighs the estimated 8% increase in value for the market, this increase points to a continuing ongoing shift in production towards more lower-value items.

Which countries consume the most?

Just ten countries dominate the market for retail purchasing: China, US, India, Japan, Germany, UK, Russia, France, Italy and Brazil. Together, these markets account for three-quarters of the clothes and more than two-thirds of the shoes sold each year.

China is particularly dominant – the quantity of garments sold there is more than the other nine countries in the list combined.

On average a US consumer purchases one mid-priced item of clothing per week.

There is a huge variation in the purchasing habits and spending power among the consumers in the different countries. This reflects the economic circumstances of each country as well as potentially different shopping cultures. However, the country averages tend to hide disparities of purchasing power within different societies.

US consumers appear to be the keenest shoppers: on average a US consumer purchases one mid-priced item of clothing per week.

By comparison, in the UK, which has a similar GDP per capita to the US, consumers buy on average 20 fewer garments per year (33 compared to 53) but spend about 70% more per item. Japanese consumers buy roughly half the amount of US consumers and spend 31% more on each item.

Although China as a country has the largest amount of purchases due to its large population, an average individual consumer in China spends just under a quarter of the amount than an average US consumer – and buys 23 fewer items per year.

In both value and volume, the USA and China's combined markets account for 42% of all spending on clothes. That is more than all the other top 10 countries combined spend on clothes. Partly this is due to the purchasing power of their consumers (the USA in particular), as well as the sheer numbers of people buying garments (particularly in China). 

These figures do not incorporate sales of footwear or jewellery, nor the active second-hand clothing market, which is the main type of retail sales in many developing country markets. If footwear and jewellery were included, the global annual retail sales would be around $2 trillion per year – just a bit smaller than India’s economy.

By 2021, the global apparel retail market is forecast to reach $1.4 trillion, an increase of around $106 billion or 8.1% since 20164.

However, the top 10 largest markets will, in general, see only modest growth over that period. Their overall market share is predicted to slip marginally to 68%. Four key markets – France, Germany, Japan and Italy – are all forecast to shrink by 2021. India, by contrast is expected to enjoy a relatively boisterous 5.2% average annual growth rate.

The top 10 fashion brands by sales value account for around 8% of global apparel sales or about $105 billion per year. They are: H&M, Nike, Adidas, Zara, Uniqlo, Levis, C&A, Old Navy, Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren.


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