China is the biggest T-shirt producer – and the fastest-growing T-shirt consumer

China is the biggest T-shirt producer – and the fastest-growing T-shirt consumer

The global T-shirt market is set to continue moderate growth in the medium term, according to a new report, with the biggest gains to be seen in markets such as China – which is also the world's largest T-shirt producer.

According to the research, the global T-shirt market grew to 12.2m units in 2016, rising by an average growth rate of 3.2% over the last nine years. In wholesale prices, the market totalled $40.5bn in 2016, approximately flat with the year before.

The report from IndexBox, 'World: T-Shirts – Market Report. Analysis And Forecast To 2025,' projects T-shirt consumption will continue to grow 1.7% annually in the medium term, helped by the recovery being seen in the global economy, ongoing urbanisation, population growth, and increasing income levels.

Regionally, expansion will occur at different rates. While the economically mature markets of the US, Canada, and Western Europe are close to capacity in terms of T-shirt consumption, emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil are far from saturated.

The countries with the highest consumption are the US (25%), China (19%), the UK (5%), India (4%), Japan (4%), Germany (3%), Canada (3%), Korea (3%), France (2%), and Italy (2%). The other major countries comprise almost 30% of global consumption.

The highest annual rates of growth in terms of T-shirt consumption from 2007 to 2016 were recorded in China, with 12.6% growth, India and Japan, with 6.5% and 5.0% growth, respectively.

China strengthened its share in terms of global consumption from 9% in 2007 to 19% in 2016. By contrast, the share of France (-2 percentage points), Spain and the UK (-3 percentage points) declined over the same period.

T-shirt production

T-shirt production increased from 10.46bn units in 2007 to 13.05bn units in 2016, expanding by 2.5% per year. In value terms, production stood at $49.33bn in 2016, with only a slight increase compared to the previous year. Overall, from 2007 to 2016, the average annual growth rate with regards to production value was 4.3%.

Not surprisingly, Asian countries continue to lead the way in T-shirt production – led by China with an output of about 5.16bn units in 2016, which in turn accounted for 39% of total global output.

Other major producers are Bangladesh (12%), India (11%), Turkey (6%), Vietnam (3%) and Cambodia (3%) – together comprising 74% of global T-shirt production.

However, T-shirt production is gradually shifting away from China to the other countries in Asia, where manufacturing costs are significantly lower.

Cambodia (+40.0% per year), Vietnam (+12.8%), Bangladesh (+10.6% per year) and India (+7.6%) have seen the most notable growth in T-shirt production over the period from 2007 to 2016.

Around 91% of total T-shirt production is for export – again led by China, Bangladesh, India and Turkey.

In 2016, the volume of global T-shirt exports totalled 11.8bn units, according to the research, a 4% growth from the previous year. In value terms, exports remained relatively stable at $44.7bn in 2016.

China (25% of total exports), Bangladesh (13%), India (8%), Turkey (7%), the US, Mexico and Vietnam (4% each) were the main global suppliers of T-shirts.

From 2007 to 2016, Vietnam (+13.1% per year), Bangladesh (+10.6% per year) and India (+8.6%) were the fastest growing suppliers amongst the major exporters.

While the share of Bangladesh (+7 percentage points), India (+4 percentage points) and Vietnam (+2 percentage points) increased, China's share fell by 14 percentage points.

The volume of global T-shirt imports increased by 8% in 2016 to 11.0bn, worth $35.8bn. The import trend pattern generally mirrored that of exports.

T-shirt imports

The US accounted for around 29% of global T-shirt imports, the report shows, making this the leading destination, followed by Germany, the UK (7% each), Japan, Italy, France (4% each) and Spain (3%).

The remaining importers together accounted to 42% of global imports. From 2007 to 2016, Japan (+4.6%) and the US (+3.2%) had the highest rate of import growth.

The remaining importing countries showed more moderate or even negative growth. For example, the UK and France (-2 percentage points) saw their shares reduce from 2007 to 2016, while those of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the period analysed.