4 MIN. READ
Apparel manufacturing faces many obstacles that have little to do with what consumers choose to wear. Global politics impact the supply chain. Inflation affects consumer buying habits and confidence. Climate change makes raw material availability more uncertain. Amid these challenges, apparel makers search for strategies to cope. The door is wide open for companies that can help them weather the storm. Basic facts about this industry will help you determine the most likely prospects to target.
During the last year, industry jobs fell from 248,493 to 248,164, a slight loss of 0.13%. Average sales for the sector were $165 million. There are twice as many women-owned apparel manufacturing companies compared to total manufacturing, 4% and 2%, respectively. Given that women buy more clothes than men, this may be fortunate. Minority ownership is the same as for all manufacturing: 1%.
Apparel producers import more materials than manufacturing as a whole, 15% versus 11%. These companies domestically distribute most of their products, 77%, compared to 70% for total manufacturing. As you might expect, this means that international distribution is lower than for all manufacturing, at 20% in comparison to 29%. A smaller proportion of apparel manufacturers are publicly owned than of manufacturers in general, 2% and 5%, respectively.
You will find the largest percentage of apparel manufacturers, 34%, in the South. Other geographic distributions are more or less even, with 25% in the Midwest, 22% in the Northeast, and 20% in the West. Opportunities exist countrywide for sellers with products and services attractive to various subindustries.
Eight subindustries make up the apparel industry. The supplies and services they need will vary with the goods produced.
Suits and Coats
The market for suits and coats is growing. A desire for ecologically friendly materials and sustainability drives the upward trend. Projections show growth continuing through 2027. Current forecasts depend on gross domestic product and consumer behavior. If these forecasts change, sales may as well.
An interesting theory from The Motley Fool holds that men's underwear sales can help forecast recessions. It proposes that when men are nervous about spending money, their undergarment purchases decrease. After the nerve-wracking times hit in 2020, sales declined by 12%. Still, as the economy picks up, sales are expected to rise. The need for components such as elastic should increase as well.
Shirts and Trousers
You may find men wearing dressier pants than in recent years. Shirts are transitioning to more comfortable construction. These changes will mean a shift in materials. If you are a prospective vendor of these goods, now is a good time to get a foot in the door.
Hats, Caps and Millinery
Projections have this subindustry experiencing significant growth. Historically, millinery has been a top industry for women. If you specialize in or are interested in serving the needs of women-owned businesses, this subindustry may be the prospecting field you need.
Garment design in this subindustry leans toward the needs of younger consumers, specifically Gen-Z and millennials. Manufacturers will be purchasing materials that provide comfort. Sustainability is also a significant concern for buyers in this demographic. Selling fabrics with high natural fiber content or providing recycled polyester yarns will give you entry into this sector.
Fur sales are controversial. The first state ban on the sales of new fur garments went into effect in 2023 in California. Many upscale department stores are getting out of the fur business. Some major conglomerates also pledged to go fur-free. Still, many design houses use fur. These include Versace, Calvin Klein, and Gucci. In addition to fur, this industry also uses a variety of chemicals. If those are part of your line, makers of fur goods may be prospects.
This category includes bathing suits, gloves, robes, and belts. Some of these are sold by specialty retailers and tailors in conjunction with accessories. The needs of the manufacturers will vary according to the items they produce.
Miscellaneous Fabricated Textiles
This subindustry makes products from purchased materials. The work may involve adding embroidery or other decoration to apparel. Manufacturers may work on a contract or fee basis. These companies could be a market for embellishment-oriented products.
While various sub-industries offer different opportunities, most are affected to some extent by general trends in the apparel industry.
The pandemic accustomed many consumers to exercising and working in informal, comfortable clothing. That sparked the growth of Athleisure, a style that works for both athletic and leisure pursuits. These garments include yoga pants and hoodies. This market continues to grow.
Sustainability is a trend that started well before the pandemic and continues on an upward slope. Consumers are looking for clothing with a lower carbon footprint. These garments feature sustainable and recycled materials. Some buyers also prefer apparel produced by methods that don't contribute to global climate change. Some purchasers also consider waste issues. Clothing that is turned out to meet fleeting fashion trends can end up in landfills. Some companies feel pressure to manufacture fewer and fewer ephemeral styles.
Some manufacturers are bypassing retail outlets and selling through their own online stores. This allows a shift toward more personalization. This strategy may require the use of materials and shipping methods more favorable for direct-to-consumer sales. If you deal in logistics or packaging, this trend may offer you a sales opportunity.
Like many other manufacturers, apparel makers are jumping aboard the artificial intelligence (AI) train. They are using new digital resources to streamline operations and develop strategies. If your company provides this type of technology, these companies may be approachable.
To take advantage of any of these trends, you need to reach decision-makers who can act on your proposals. IndustrySelect can help.
By using IndustrySelect, you can make each contact count. With a subscription, you can identify your best prospects by industry, company, location, and size. IndustrySelect keeps an up-to-date database of executives' names, titles, and all-important email addresses. With IndustrySelect, you can discover your prospect's competitors, increasing your opportunities for sales. You can also build the lists you need and share them with your sales team. Set up your free demo account of IndustrySelect and see how your prospecting field can grow.