Workwear companies should adopt a strategic marketing policy of aggressive expansion via acquisition, streamlined ranges or strategic partnerships if they want to survive in the fragmented European marketplace.

This is the sobering advice from Emma Smith, research analyst with Frost & Sullivan and author of a report on the European Market for Workwear.

She says the sector is increasingly overcrowded, and it is difficult to see how the present 650 European suppliers can all survive.
 
The European workwear market is large and mature, especially in Northern Europe. Total sales are moving forward only very gradually. From a user base of over 50 million in 2001, the market was worth $3.59 billion, the equivalent of 306.2 million pieces.

Frost & Sullivan expects the market to achieve compound annual growth of 2.5 per cent between 2001 and 2008, which will take revenues to $4.27 billion by 2008.
 
Smith explains: "It is certainly true to say that suppliers to the workwear market in Europe have had to overcome numerous challenges in the recent past in order to stay competitive in what remains a very crowded marketplace.

"Not least amongst these challenges has been the rise in imports of working clothes from countries that command significantly lower operational costs. The end result of this has been the influx of clothes on the European market at a price that cannot be matched by western suppliers.

"The availability of low cost clothing in Europe was the challenge that was most commonly identified by suppliers interviewed for this report. I have identified two principal means of surmounting this problem: the relocation of garment manufacturing facilities to low-cost countries, and the up-grading of product offerings to justify higher prices."

Smith concludes by suggesting that only those companies who adopt a strategic marketing policy of aggressive expansion via acquisition, streamlining of product offering or strategic partnerships will survive and begin to dominate this fragmented marketplace.