Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

Tesco and Primark show three-way split in worldwide apparel retail

Tesco announced a 1% fall in its latest year’s clothing sales, while Primark announced a 5% growth in its sales for the latest half year. The numbers confirm what’s beginning to look like a worldwide trend.

Tesco – the world’s third largest retailer – is performing rather like Wal-Mart. Its clothes sales are gaining market share, as conventional specialist chains and department stores are really losing volume. But, like everyone, it is being hit by a falling market – and getting squeezed by two more successful formats.

Real discounters – whether apparel specialists like the UK’s Primark, Ross Stores and Japan’s Fast Retailing, or generalists like Germany’s Lidl and Aldi – are simply better focused and more relevant to clothes buyers in a depression than the hypermarkets. In fairness Tesco and Wal-Mart still do clothing better than the other hypermarkets, and it’s interesting that neither Metro nor Carrefour (the world’s fourth and second largest retailers) are as forthcoming about their clothing sales as Tesco and Wal-Mart.

At the other end, it now seems generally agreed, at least in the English-speaking world, that younger people are less affected by the depression than their parents. So successful fashion-focused businesses, like the UK’s New Look or America’s The Buckle, continue to perform well.

But the hypermarkets (as well as similar discounters, like TJX), the hard discounters and the fashion-focused are a minority. Many conventional clothes specialists, whether department stores or fashion-specific chains, are really in pain.

With two quite outstanding exceptions – who happen to be the world’s third and fifth largest clothing retailers: H&M and Inditex. Having a distinctive, relevant proposition helps as well.