The global workwear industry is set to grow 6% from 2015-2019

The global workwear industry is set to grow 6% from 2015-2019

Growth is set to return to the global workwear market, but a static population and high unemployment will be a barrier to progress in Europe, a new report suggests.

According to just-style’s latest industry research report: 'Global market review of workwear – Forecasts to 2019', the sector is entering an era of the "last man standing" strategy following a constant stream of acquisition activity in North America and Europe since the industry exploded in 1990.

This M&A activity has been driven by the mature nature of the workwear industry, and has accelerated in the past decade thanks to an imbalance between supply and demand, the report finds.

Workwear was particularly badly affected by the economic crisis following 2008, with companies either cutting their workwear budgets or demanding lower prices from their suppliers.

The result was a slight decline in the value of the market between 2009 and 2014, with Europe and North America the worst-hit areas and experiencing volume declines.

The market had a wholesale value of US$9.92bn in 2014, comprising some 698m units with an average sale price per garment of $14.21. These relatively low average prices reflect the basic nature of most garments, particularly health workwear, as well as low-cost sourcing and low-priced fabrics.

Negative trends reversing
There are signs of negative market trends reversing now, with the report predicting 6% growth in the global workwear industry between 2015 and 2019 – although Europe will lag behind this figure thanks to high unemployment and a static population.

Of the total predicted world growth of 40m units over that period, some 28m will come from North America and Asia, while trade is also growing fast in South America and the rest of the world.

The report also charts the distinctive nature of the workwear market compared to other clothing sectors – not least that transactions are essentially business-to-business, between suppliers and employers on behalf of their employees.

This is also a sector where it is increasingly difficult to draw clear boundaries between individual segments such as workwear, careerwear, casual wear, uniforms and protective wear.

The report notes: "just-style is now of the view that product categories are so blurred that they add no further value to understanding the workwear market. How the garments are sold (route to market) provides a better perspective."

Garment rental is a very important channel for workwear, and is especially strong in North America and Europe, particularly Western Europe. Opinion is divided as to whether trends for rental have been historically positive or negative since 2009, with similarly conflicting forecasts for the future years to 2019.

But the report believes rental will do better in North America than market researchers believe, and worse in Europe than its trade association suggests.

Fabric developments
Another area of interest highlighted is the importance of fabric developments, particularly in connection with health and safety, performance, or both, with fabric treatments very important and the current buzzwords multi-functional fabrics and nanotechnology.

Finally, the report notes the manufacturing shift that has accompanied industry consolidation, with production increasingly moving to low-cost manufacturers in Turkey, North Africa, India and China.

The report believes there are around 1,000 large-scale manufacturers, most of them anonymous and based in Asia – which produced roughly 400m workwear garments as a whole in 2014, but consumed just 161m units.

Click on the following link to view the full report: Global market review of workwear - forecasts to 2019.

Expert analysis

Global market review of workwear - forecasts to 2019

Global market review of workwear - forecasts to 2019

This latest edition of just-style's global workwear report updates its market valuation data post-recession and provides a complete worldwide picture of the state of the sector. The report inclues: more