This year will be a return to normal for Canada’s retail apparel market, says a new report by Trendex North America, a marketing research and consulting firm.
The report is forecasting a 3.6 per cent increase in 2023 in retail apparel sales to $34.4 billion.
“It’s a return to normal. The growth that we’re going to see is reflective of what we saw pre-COVID and that will also include growth for the e-commerce market and the luxury market,” said Randy Harris, President and Owner of Trendex North America.
“The only thing that’s more interesting is that the second-hand or resale apparel market will grow the most and that will affect the luxury market to some degree. To what degree is hard to say at this point. But there’s no doubt that it is a very, very important sector that we never even talked about five years ago and now it is.
“I think the interesting thing from my perspective is again because I’m a contrarian, there were two things that did not happen in 2022. We did not see a spike in corporate bankruptcies. There were only three. One less than the year before. So all the gloom and doom about companies going out of business might happen especially in the weed business but certainly not in the apparel business.”
The Trendex report is forecasting apparel sales to rise 2.5 per cent to $35.2 billion in 2024 and by another 2.8 per cent to $36.2 billion in 2025.
“The other thing I felt was interesting is that there’s a lot of talk about inflationary pressures and the market. There is no such thing as inflationary pressure within the apparel segment. Last year, apparel prices went up 0.2 per cent. Now I believe that the overall rate of inflation was like six per cent plus. But our prices are not going up,” said Harris.
“That says something though. And that is a lot of discounting is going on in the marketplace for apparel and there is no indication yet that an overall higher rate of inflation in general is negatively affecting discretionary purchases like apparel. Not yet at least. I know inflation is a big deal in every article you read about Canada but it seems to have no effect on the Canadian apparel market based on the government’s own data.”
The Trendex report said there are two important unknowns: whether the country will experience a recession in 2023 and to what degree the rate of inflation will negatively affect Canadian’s discretionary purchases including those for apparel.
The Trendex forecast also found:
- Apparel e-commerce sales will increase by 6.6 per cent. Holding down its growth will be an increase in the number of retailers eliminating free returns and the elimination of any remaining in-person shopping restrictions;
- Luxury apparel sales will increase by 7.0 per cent. The increase will be driven by a number of factors including an increase in tourism;
- Resale apparel sales will increase at a rate at least two times greater than that for the entire retail apparel market;
- As inflation continues to negatively impact consumers discretionary purchases, both the fast fashion and off-price channels will gain share;
- The incidence of buy now/pay later for apparel will increase to the point that instead of it being a competitive advantage if offered it will become a competitive disadvantage if it is not available;
- Sustainability will finally become an important variable in the purchase decision especially among young female consumers (note: forget younger men, as they are a lost cause);
- Gender fluid fashion sales will explode from a small sales base;
- Retailers will continue to use/experiment with social media, which is becoming more expensive, in order to develop ongoing relationships with potential customers;
- Direct to consumer brands will continue to open pop-up locations and retail stores in order to reduce the cost of customer acquisition;
- Activewear’s sales will continue to decline as working from home will become a pleasant but distant memory;
- To enhance its awareness in the United States, Aritzia will join lululemon and Gildan in listing its stock on a U.S. exchange;
- Sport Chek will struggle, as a result of both an increase in the number of its direct competitor’s doors and a slowing in athletic apparel sales.
Harris said the market grew by 19.6 per cent in 2022 to $33.2 billion.
“A lot of that was frontloaded in the beginning of the year. But if you look for example at the most recent months, October apparel sales were up only 4.6 per cent. So we’re beginning now to compare apples and apples,” he said.
“By last October in 2021, we had been pretty much through all the COVID restrictions and retailing had begun to return to normal. So when we’re talking about the growth in the market it sounds like it was wonderful and it was at the beginning of the year but by the end of the year we settled into the normal three, four, five per cent growth rates and I expect by the end of the year December will be up about six per cent.
“What we have is a different market. So many of the things you read do not apply to the Canadian apparel market. Some do but a lot of them do not and certainly one is inflation and the other one is e-commerce is not growing that much at all and it’s going to probably get worse going forward because more and more retailers are going to start charging for returns.”