The Course of the Apparel Industry
Several factors have reshaped, and continue to reshape, the worldwide textile and apparel manufacturing industry. The paradigm has shifted into a digital market that demands speed and agility from industry players. These sweeping influences create drivers of increased mergers and acquisitions activity in this market.
- Online expansion, the reduction in brick-and-mortar store locations, and omni-channel shopping
- Sophisticated tech-savvy consumers and social media influencers
- Digitization of payments, points of sale, logistics and delivery
- Demand for fashion at lower prices
- A growing market for fair fashion and demand for increased sustainability as younger generations call for reduced impacts on the environment
- Cost-cutting measures and restructuring to focus on core brands
- Emerging markets of second and third-tier cities and the assertive expansion of fast-fashion retailers
The E-commerce Race
Becoming a go-to platform for customers in the apparel industry means that companies are forced to innovate and diversify their offerings to provide added value, relying less on retail margins. This not-easy task can be accomplished through internal research and development, or mergers and acquisitions.
Changes in Fashion Ownership
Consumers are becoming more interested in different ways to extend the lifespan of fashion items as new companies crop up that offer used clothing, refurbished apparel, and even clothing rental. As more of these new companies emerge, the existing fashion retailers must to adapt to embrace these new ownership models, which are being heavily driven by younger generations that still want new clothes but are more concerned with sustainability. Even luxury brands are embracing this model, but are buying resale or rental businesses so that they can maintain control over the marketing of their brands.
More and more consumers—and investors—are being enchanted by small brands with interesting and genuine stories. Younger generations prefer small brands and authenticity. Digital marketing changes how the brand narratives are conveyed and provides a cost-effective vehicle to reach larger audiences. And retailers want the differentiation that draws customers in and boosts their margins. Small brands are also able to cater to niche shoppers and more nimbly react to market trends. These small apparel companies are seeing billions of dollars in funding. The giant fashion brands must adapt to this shift in philosophy and add small brands to their portfolios.
Data analytics and automation have created a new market for companies that focus on made-to-order manufacturing of apparel. Small-batch production cycles are a result of the need for a more rapid response to changing trends and consumer demands, as well as a reduction in overstock.
From a financial viewpoint, on-demand fashion production has both benefits and drawbacks. It requires lower capital investment. It leads to smaller inventories, which means more agility. And faster turnaround cycles can ease demand uncertainties and make production more sustainable. In contrast, production and transport costs are typically higher because of the smaller batches.
Digital Textile Printing
Conventional textile printing methods (rotary screen or flatbed) are being abandoned for newer digital printing methods, especially in European countries. Digital printing allows textile manufacturers to respond to an increasing demand for fast fashion through shorter production runs and customization.
This tech-driven printing sector is drawing the attention of private equity and strategic investors. M&A deals in this space create companies that combine specialty technical mastery with the market and monetary reach of large corporations.
There are several reasons to sell a company in this sector. It can be too expensive to keep up with new trends in such a quickly changing operating environment. It can be beneficial to sell within a segment that has high valuation levels (such as affordable luxury or athletic wear). Additionally, brick-and-mortar retailers can sell assets to focus on the development of their flagship and online stores.
There are also many reasons to buy a company in this sector, such as the integration of the supply chain from manufacturers to wholesalers. It can also drive geographical expansion or growth into a new segment, especially emerging markets with developing economies. Another tactic can be to leverage existing brand equity to profit from a known brand that the current owner cannot afford to maintain or grow. Plus, the ever-changing technology landscape means new opportunities within tech companies that serve the industry.
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