Declining sales, a reduction in production volumes, increased exports and a rise in imports all characterised the French apparel market for the first six months of this year. The data, which has been released by the Paris-based Centre for the Economic Observation of Textiles (CTCOE or Centre Textile de Conjoncture et d'Observation Economique) covered the performance of the French apparel market between January and September 2000.

During this period, sales increased by 1.3 per cent compared with the same period in 1999. Important variations were recorded across different distribution channels, the most significant of which is the increase in sales value seen within the popular chain stores.

France: sales increase for January - September 2000
(by distribution channel)
  • Independent stores + 1.4 %
  • Specialised chain stores + 2.0 %
  • Department stores + 3.1 %
  • Popular chain stores + 4.0 %
  • Mail order firms + 0.1 %
  • Hypermarkets - 0.7 %

The apparently poor results of hypermarkets and mail order firms, expressed in value and not in volume, probably reflect their policies of selling high volumes of apparel but at low, attractive prices. Indeed, hypermarkets are selling pure wool suits, made from fine micron wools, and offered with a choice of two sleeve lengths and three trouser lengths, at 850 Francs (approximately $116) - which, to say the least, is a very competitive price.

Sales variations for this same period show that the largest rise in value terms has been for women's wear (up 3.1per cent), with men's knitwear and shirts showing a decrease of 0.8 per cent.

France: Sales increase for January - September 2000
(by type of garment):
  • Men's wear +0.6%
  • Men's knitwear and shirts -0.8%
  • Women's wear +3.1%
  • Women's knitwear, hosiery, lingerie +1.4%
  • Children's wear +1.1%

Production Levels
For the first 6 months of 2000 apparel production, by volume, decreased by 17 per cent compared with the same period in 1999. Although individual companies expressed satisfaction at the level of firm orders they had received, the volume of apparel produced in France did not improve. This is due to an increase in sourcing from lower wage countries. The most important fall in production concerns men's wear and boys' wear (-28 per cent).

Apparel Production, variation in volume, first semester 2000/1999
  • Men and boys - 28%
  • Women and girls - 20%
  • Underwear - 13%
  • Workwear - 14%
  • Global Apparel, all sectors - 17%

Apparel Exports
The country's exports of woven garments for the first 6 months of the year totalled 9.8 billion French Francs (approximately $US1.3 billion). This represents an increase of 8 per cent compared with the same period in 1999. Exports to European Union countries grew by 3 per cent and exports to other countries grew by 15 per cent. It is interesting to note the increases of exports to a few countries:
  • UK +12%
  • USA + 19%
  • Japan + 15%

Apparel Imports
Garment imports amounted to 19.2bn Francs (approximately $2.6bn). This represents an increase of 11 per cent on the same period a year before. Imports from European Union countries rose by six per cent, and imports from other countries were up by 14 per cent. The increase in imports from Spain (+32 per cent) is a direct result of the success of the Spanish chain stores with outlets in France. A few figures illustrate the situation:
  • Spain +32%
  • China +17%
  • India +15%
  • Turkey +11%

European Union
Figures available for the first four months of 2000 suggest that 127 million apparel items have been imported by the European Union. Skirts represent 49 per cent of this total. Imports of skirts from China increased by 56 per cent during this period compared with 1999.

European Union exports during that same period show that skirts occupy the leading position with 37 per cent of all items, followed by woven women's coats and jackets - which amount to 19 per cent.

By Marc de Laroche