Despite the current global economic downturn, the global apparel industry continues to grow at a healthy rate and this, coupled with the absence of switching costs for consumers and great product differentiation, means that rivalry within the industry is no more than moderate. The apparel industry is of great importance to the economy in terms of trade, employment, investment and revenue all over the world. This particular industry has short product life cycles, vast product differentiation and is characterized by great pace of demand change coupled with rather long and inflexible supply processes.
Even well-established brands have to work hard to maintain their share of the market. Consumers are demanding more versatile wear with wider functionality, which means retailers continue producing new styles of apparel for men and women.
Apparel remains largely a discretionary purchase compared to other consumer goods, making it more prone to economic shocks. The global apparel market has been shaped by three contrasting regional movements - robust growth in emerging markets, fragile recovery in the United States, and a sharp slowdown in Western Europe.
During 2013, retail sales at clothing and accessories stores in the United States totaled approximately 251 billion U.S. dollars; up from 242.5 billion U.S. dollars the previous year. Apparel retailing has always been a tough, highly competitive business, and many chains rise dramatically and then fail as price pressure from major discounters like Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl's keep profit margins thin at stores that sell moderately priced apparel.
The global apparel market is always changing, attempting to adapt to customer trends and new technology that will allow the consumers shopping experience to be more enjoyable and ergonomic.