January 2005 management briefing

A major research company estimates the world’s retail apparel market at US$780bn. It is served by tens of thousands of apparel retailers, each of whom approaches their job in different ways. The market is very fragmented: the top ten retailers account for 11% of sales. This review, inevitably, concentrates on those top ten and on similar sized operators with broadly similar concerns. Sometimes, the industry leaders are taking very similar approaches: sometimes, they are going in quite different directions. This review looks at the areas where the top retailers are not all going in the same direction, at who is doing what, and why they are doing it. The review concludes that the issues arising from the end of quota are relatively minor for many retailers. They have other, more pressing, sourcing problems of their own to solve. And they believe it is impossible to predict who will emerge stronger from the post-quota world. “Wait and see” seems to be the universal response to quota elimination. “No time to wait”, is their response to almost everything else.

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