Is the apparel sector seeing an AI investment boom? - Just Style
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Is the apparel sector seeing an AI investment boom?

11 Jun 2021

AI deals, jobs and patents have been booming in the last few years – but is the apparel sector keeping up?

Is the apparel sector seeing an AI investment boom?

The apparel industry is seeing an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) investment across several key metrics, according to an analysis of GlobalData data.

AI is gaining an increasing presence across multiple sectors, with top companies completing more AI deals, hiring for more AI roles and mentioning it more frequently in company reports at the start of 2021.

GlobalData’s thematic approach to sector activity seeks to group key company information on hiring, deals, patents and more by topic to see which companies are best placed to weather the disruptions coming to their industries.

These themes, of which AI is one, are best thought of as “any issue that keeps a CEO awake at night,” and by tracking them it becomes possible to ascertain which companies are leading the way on specific issues and which are dragging their heels.

According to this method, LVMH, Nike, Foot Locker are classed as dominant players in AI in the sector, with an additional eight companies classified as leaders. No companies are considered to be vulnerable due to a lack of investment in AI.

One area in which there has seen little movement in AI investment among apparel companies is in the number of deals. GlobalData show that there were two AI deals in apparel in the first quarter of 2019 – the same as the first quarter of 2021.

Hiring patterns within the apparel sector as a whole are pointing towards an increase in the level of attention being shown to AI-related roles. There was a monthly average of 7,435 actively advertised-for open AI roles within the industry in April this year, up from a monthly average of 5,703 in December 2020.

It is also apparent from an analysis of keyword mentions in financial filings that AI is occupying the minds of apparel companies to a lesser extent.

There have been 30 mentions of AI across the filings of the biggest apparel companies so far in 2021, equating to 19.2% of all tech theme mentions. This figure represents a decrease compared to 2016, when AI represented 46.8% of the tech theme mentions in company filings.

AI is increasingly fuelling innovation in the apparel sector, particularly in the past six years. There were, on average, 2.9 apparel patents related to AI granted each year from 2000 to 2014. That figure has risen to an average of 7.9 patents since then, reaching 12 in 2020.