The branded market could be ripe for a resurgence after figures showed the two-and-a-half-year trend for declining sales in the sector had come to an end.
Figures from analyst Kantar Worldpanel Fashion showed that the value of the branded market was flat for the 24 weeks to March 28 and remained so for the 24 weeks to April 25. The last time the sector was in growth was in the 24 weeks to December 9, 2007.
The branded market, which was worth £1.6bn and represented 24% of the clothing and footwear sector during the six months to March 28, has benefited from consumers shifting their focus away from price alone to look for investment purchases and from brands working harder to differentiate themselves from the high street. If the trend continues, it could give a much-needed boost to multi-brand indies and department stores, both of which lost market share to own-label specialists, including fashion multiples and supermarkets over the quarter to April 25.
Kantar Worldpanel consumer insight director Elaine Giles said: “The branded market declined as own-label specialists, particularly in the value sector, introduced lower-priced ranges. However, the brands have reacted to that by differentiating themselves through quality and innovation. A brand name alone is no longer enough to secure sales.”
She added: “Consumers have also moved towards making more considered investment purchases.”
While growth in the branded womenswear market was static, the menswear market began to grow and saw a 1% rise. Brands approached by Drapers said that while the market remained tough it was picking up for those brands that had invested in design to differentiate themselves. However, some warned that increased pressures could halt a full-blown recovery.
Gerry Weber’s UK and Republic of Ireland country manager Howard Ross said the classic womenswear market remained tough but added: “There are fewer brands in the market and I think we’ll see the smaller brands continue to struggle, but as a result those that are left will grow stronger.”
International Fashion Federation (IFF) chairman Glynn Alwyn-Jones said: “There seems to be a return of optimism for spring 11. The 35-plus woman is coming back to brands and quality faster than younger women though, who still seem more focused on price.”
Mark Ashton, UK agent for young fashion brand Ichi and managing director of Concept Fashion Agency, said menswear brands had begun to perform better but branded womenswear was still in decline because women were less brand loyal than men. “Women focus on products not brands. It’s all about the latest look for them,” he said.
Charlotte McHardy, managing director of contemporary womenswear brand Sandwich UK, disagreed: “We’ve added more categories. If a womenswear brand can deliver a full look so a consumer doesn’t need to go elsewhere they will get loyalty.”
Indies agreed that the branded market had begun to pick up but warned that the much-needed fillip would not automatically cause a growth in indie market share.
John Cook, owner of Bristol men’s young fashion indie Colonel Mustard, said several brands had indicated they would increase prices for spring 11 due to increased input costs such as soaring cotton prices. “I’ll have to take a hit on my margins to remain competitive,” he said.
David Weeks, buying director of young fashion indie chain Xile, said menswear sales had remained strong, particularly among logo-driven brands such as Lyle & Scott, but womenswear remained tough.
“There’s no brand loyalty in womenswear,” he added. “Women still spend on denim but go to the high street for everything else.”