Cathy’s Notes on Maternity Wear
Over the last half-decade or so, the maternity wear space has experienced a healthy growth despite sagging economic conditions. Retailers in general clothing, on the other hand, were left to wade through relatively difficult times on account of subdued growth in discretionary spending and volatility in consumer spending. Fashion conscious consumers, on the other hand, helped the growth of maternity wear. Historically, though many women were happy making alterations to the clothing they owned or simply buy some oversized stuff for the duration of the pregnancy, there has been a gradual shift in the trend, tilting towards a purchase of apparel specifically catering to pregnant women. This has also resulted in a strong influx of retailers entering the industry bringing along new product lines. On broader terms, the industry today is looking at a CAGR of about 1.3% globally.
Entry barriers for the maternity wear industry are moderate with continues steady growth. Establishing new operations attract relatively low initial costs and capital outlay. The concentration of market share is also low, and it is the small players who largely dominate the industry which in turn gives room for new players to compete. The industry also has a significant number of stores that operate only in the on-line space which further beneficially impacts the entry barriers since setting up an online business can be done with minimal investment. Yet, the industry does face reasonable competition since many retailers in the maternity wear space sell identical products. Retailers from the general clothing space as well as departmental stores too need to be reckoned with when it comes to competition. Interestingly, the maternity wear industry appears to be well equipped to weather all this competition and march ahead in its growth trajectory. Some of the major factors that are in favour of the industry include:
The garments/apparels industry is a relatively low-tech segment with a greater emphasis on manual labour than dependence on technology or machines. Given the seamless nature of trade today, retailers are able to find competitive markets to get the desired volume of maternity wear made and shipped to multiple destinations. Many Asian countries have a large workforce with excellent training and experience in producing these apparels, and the Western nations take advantage of this by getting all the labour intensive work done through vendors in these markets. China occupies a predominant position in this arrangement and apparently everyone is happy with the way the wheels of the industry turns.
In tune with the demands of the market
As with any other segment in the apparels industry, customer preferences keep oscillating regularly and sometimes even wildly. In the world of fashion, if retailers cannot cater to the expectations of the customer from time to time, survival would be difficult and customers would move to others who can meet their demands/expectations. Thankfully, for smart retailers, this should never be a problem since the fashion trends can be predicted in advance and more so, with maternity wear since the demands are more focused on quality of material, workmanship and fitting. Most vendors are aware of these exacting needs and take special care to ensure that the specifications laid out are strictly adhered to unfailingly.
Globally, the demand for maternity wear is expected to grow at about 2.0 percent annually, over the next few years. Quality, comfort, design, colours, and variety will dictate the success among competition and barring perhaps the high end of the price band, demand is unlikely to be impacted and more so, in nations experiencing reasonable growth in population.
Working women are the key drivers in the maternity wear market
Growth of the maternity wear market would be dictated largely by working women in the days to come. This trend has been growing on a global scale with emphasis in countries like India where the population of working women has seen a steady rise and obviously they have a disposable income that is impressive, particularly for spending in the apparels and fashion space. However, a negative impact from a low birth rate in countries like Japan, Singapore, Monaco, Miquelon and Saint Pierre needs to be factored in while examining the prospects of maternity wear.
High-tech fabrics to the forefront
Many women today, particularly the working class are no more afraid of their bumps and that has given rise to a trend in maternity wear fitting close to the body shape without hiding the bump. Many of these upwardly mobile women have also come to choose high-tech fabric including the elastic variety of top. A clear shift towards organic maternity wear is being experienced with consumers keen on avoiding chemical exposure during pregnancy in particular. Manufacturers and retailer, therefore, concentrate on sustainable materials like organic cotton. During 2014, maternity wear market also saw a 47% share coming from casual and business wear in the maternity wear market. Demand for business class maternity wear has thus been seeing a healthy growth in demand.
A large percentage of pregnant women are also opting to continue working into the final weeks of pregnancy. Comfort and ease are important for them during this period to continue in active employment, booming some young products like nursing and maternity bras by Yael Carmeli. In turn, that has created a distinct demand for maternity wear in different styles and sizes. This demand has been particularly pronounced in countries like UK and the US where the majority of women tend to continue working till labour starts.
In conclusion, we can say that the global maternity wear market is in good health and poised for further growth over the coming years. Existing competition is healthy and has leg room for all existing players and even new comers. The brick and mortar businesses may, however, need to keep a close tab on the digital world where more and more entrepreneurs may claim their share of this juicy pie.