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The Pandemic Puts a Drag on the Global T-Shirt Market


The Pandemic Puts a Drag on the Global T-Shirt Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – T-Shirts – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

In 2019, the global t-shirt market decreased by -3.5% to $88.5B for the first time since 2016, thus ending a two-year rising trend. Overall, consumption, however, saw a relatively flat trend pattern. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2018 with an increase of 5.2% against the previous year. As a result, consumption reached the peak level of $91.7B, and then declined slightly in the following year.

The countries with the highest volumes of t-shirt consumption in 2019 were China (4.4B units), the U.S. (2.9B units) and India (1.8B units), together comprising 36% of global consumption. Japan, Pakistan, Indonesia, the UK, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Germany, Mexico, Ethiopia and Turkey lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 22% (IndexBox estimates).

In value terms, China ($12.9B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by the U.S. ($6B). It was followed by India.

The countries with the highest levels of t-shirt per capita consumption in 2019 were the UK (9 units per person), the U.S. (9 units per person) and Germany (6 units per person).

T-shirts constitute one of the principal consumer goods from the category of apparel for daily use. Another impetus in the demand comes from sport and outdoor activity, from personal use to the equipment of professional teams. On the other hand, T-shirt consumption goes beyond just the essential need and depends on fashion trends and social life. Therefore, T-shirt consumption is to follow the growth of the global population and consumer incomes, which broadly depend on general economic development.

The growth drivers in T-shirt consumption vary widely in terms of region. In the U.S., for example, the fitness trend continues to impact T-shirt consumption: the need for athletic comfort becomes an important factor in the buying process. The current prevailing trend of using activewear and clothing as items of everyday attire is set to persist, and T-shirts that feature a blend of fashion and functionality will continue to perform well over the forecast period. Leading sportswear brands continue to launch and release new and appealing product ranges, aimed directly at consumers.

Consumer trend changes are also relevant for the EU T-shirt market: new variations and styles, as well as eco-fashion in different T-shirt categories, are being introduced. T-shirt consumption across Europe was expected to grow due to the rising fashion consciousness amongst consumers with regard to T-shirt products, and the increasing purchasing power of the young and teenage population.

The Asian T-shirt market was predicted to show strong growth: the number of consumers in the region is increasing every year. Lifestyle changes, combined with increased levels of disposable income and the current demand for trendy fashion items are all encouraging the rapid growth of Asia’s T-shirt market. Another major fundamental behind this growth is rapid urbanization accompanied by the rising popularity of Western lifestyles. Furthermore, due to their cheaper workforce, Asian countries remain key global centers of T-shirt production, thereby having T-shirts largely available.

Until 2020, the global economy has been developing steadily for five years, although at a slower pace than in the previous decade. In early 2020, however, the global economy entered a period of crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to World Bank forecasts, despite the gradual relaxing of restrictive measures and unprecedented government support in countries that faced the pandemic in early 2020, the annual decline of global GDP could amount to -4.3%, which is the deepest global recession being seen over the past eight decades.

The consumer goods sector is vulnerable to the pandemic as due to quarantine measures, entire economic sectors and facilities were paused, and the drop in incomes makes the growth of end markets unfeasible, thereby hampering any expansion of consumer spending. Moreover, the pandemic led to a shutdown of the retail outlets and malls, which undermined the sales of apparel, T-shirts and other consumer goods outside of the most essential range.

Consequently, world manufacturing hubs in China and other Asian countries are facing a double challenge. Like other enterprises, T-shirt companies had to halt operations during the breakout of the pandemic. Afterward, when China started to ease the lockdown, the companies challenge the rising number of order cancellations from overseas clients which suffered their lockdown a month later and therefore are unable to sell or stockpile merchandise. This, in turn, may have led to the overstocking of the manufactures’ warehouses, which puts additional pressure on prices. Accordingly, when the growth of demand will resume, the recovery of production may be delayed until the stocks are sold, thereby putting a further drag on the post-pandemic market recovery.

Taking into account the above, it is expected that in 2020, global consumption of T-shirts declined somewhat against 2019. In the medium term, as the global economy recovers from the effects of the pandemic, the market is expected to grow gradually, driven by rising population, recovering incomes, and the replacement of outworn ones, together with the consumer intention to get something new after a period of limitations. Overall, market performance is forecast to pursue a slightly upward trend over the next decade, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +1.1% (IndexBox estimates) for the period from 2019 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 29B units by the end of 2030.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


Cozy up to Trade this Winter

There’s nothing like curling up next to a roaring fire wrapped up in a warm sweater, soft blankets and furry pillows on a cold day. As we bundle up for the remainder of the winter season, we can give thanks to global trade for gifting us with some of today’s trendiest and coziest items – Sherpa wool coats, Mongolian lamb fur pillows and cashmere sweaters, Giza cotton sheets, and Turkish towels.

The United States imported $110 billion worth of textiles and apparel last year, with China, Vietnam and India as the lead exporters. These larger economies dominate overall textile and apparel imports, but specialty products from smaller economies are making a name for themselves with American consumers this holiday season. Before you buy “faux” versions, read on to get the skinny on the originals.

Sherpa from Nepal

Sherpa wool coats, sweaters, and scarves are everywhere this holiday season. Once a high-end statement piece, trendy Sherpa items are now available at varying price points at your local mall. While most of the Sherpa in your closet is likely the faux variety made from polyester, acrylic or cotton, the real deal is inspired by wool clothing worn by the Sherpa people living in the Himalayas.

There are some 150,000 Sherpas residing in the mountainous regions of Nepal, India and Tibet. Many make their living today guiding climbers and tourists up the dangerous summit of Mount Everest as expert mountaineers. But they’re also well-known traders of salt, wool and rice.

The United States is Nepal’s second-largest export market. Top imports include carpets, handicrafts and antiques, animal feed, textiles and apparel. In 2015, the United States established a stand-alone trade preference program with Nepal as part of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act to help support Nepal’s economic recovery following disastrous earthquakes that year. The program established duty-free access for 77 categories of products including carpets, shawls, scarves, handbags and suitcases through 2025.

Although Nepal may have started the Sherpa trend, we get most of our wool products from elsewhere today. U.S. wool apparel imports topped $3.1 billion in 2018. China was the top source at over 42 percent, followed by Italy, Canada and Vietnam.

U.S. wool imports 3 billion

Fur pillows and cashmere sweaters from Mongolia

Fluff up your indoor space by throwing a trendy Mongolian lamb fur pillows on your sofa. (These pillows are all the rage with teens and millennials.) While faux versions are likely a mix of acrylic and polyester, the real ones are made from sheared sheep wool from Mongolia.

Mongolia is home to some 14 million sheep. They graze year-round on Mongolia’s vast plains, accustomed to severe winters, steep mountains and poor vegetation.

Mongolia’s sheep aren’t the only grazers sought after for their soft coats. Mongolia is also home to some 27 million goats that produce 9,400 tons of soft cashmere each year, making Mongolia the world’s second-largest producer of cashmere behind China. Top destinations for Mongolian cashmere include Italy and England. It’s the country’s third-largest exporting industry and employs over 100,000 people, the majority of whom are women.

Exports account for more than half of Mongolia’s GDP. Its economy has traditionally relied on herding and agriculture, but in recent years has gotten a big boost of foreign direct investment in its mining sector which seeks to extract rich deposits of copper, gold, coal, uranium, tungsten and more.

Mongolia second-largest producer of cashmere

Giza cotton sheets from Egypt

If you’ve ever been up late skimming the TV channels over the holiday break, you’ve likely come across a mustached man happily hugging his “MyPillow”. Mike Lindell is now legendary for his infomercial success, and his company has expanded its product line beyond its namesake pillows to offer dog beds, towels and more.

One of the latest product lines from MyPillow is “Giza Dream” sheets and pillowcases made with 100 percent Giza cotton. In one of his infomercials, Lindell explains how he made his signature sheets: “I started by using the world’s best cotton called Giza. It’s only grown in a region between the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile River. It’s ultra-soft and breathable, but extremely durable”.

MyPillow’s first infomercial aired in 2011, but Giza cotton has been around for centuries. Known for being both extra fine and extra long, Giza cotton is planted in Egypt every April and harvested in September. It’s then hand-picked to ensure its properly matured. But issues with deteriorating quality of privately produced Giza cotton led the Egyptian government to intervene in recent years to help restore the reputation of Egyptian cotton.

In 2017, the Egyptian government unveiled a 19-step plan which included taking control of the production and distribution of cottonseed. It’s already led to increased yield and quality, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Foreign Agriculture Service. The plan also seeks to prevent seed mixing, enforce bans on prohibited varieties, and develop Egypt’s local spinning and weaving industries.

In 2018, Egypt’s total lint cotton exports were estimated at 220,000 bales. India was the top importer of Egyptian cotton, responsible for over 50 percent of total exports. Other top importers include Pakistan, China and Turkey.

World cotton production

Turkish towels

Turkish towels are a summer must-have for sunbathing, but they’ve also made their way into American homes for use after showering, as tablecloths, and as blankets. Usually striped with fringes on the end, these trendy towels are known for being super absorbent, lightweight and getting softer with each wash.

Turkish towels are made with premium Aegean Cotton, known for its extra long fibers. Called “Peshtemal” in Turkey, Turkish towels have a long history dating over 600 years. Turkey is widely credited with inventing the first towels as part of a ceremonial bathing routine for new brides in Turkish hammams.

The Turkish textile industry is one of the leading sectors in its economy, accounting for 16 percent of exports in 2018. According to its Ministry of Trade, Turkey was the world’s third-largest supplier of bed sheets, fourth-largest supplier of towels and bathrobes, and fifth-largest supplier of bedspreads in 2016. Of its top exports markets for home textiles, the United States ranks second behind Germany.

Turkish towels exports

Unwrapping gratitude for trade

Nepal, Mongolia, Egypt and Turkey are inspiring some of the coziest products we’ll unwrap this holiday season.

Even if these products are enjoying the fruits of a fad-induced surge in American demand, their histories date back centuries while also representing an important source of employment and exports for their respective economies today.


Lauren Kyger

Lauren Kyger is Associate Editor for TradeVistas. Prior to joining TradeVistas, she was a Research Associate at the Hinrich Foundation focused on international trade issues. She is a Hinrich Foundation Global Trade Leader Scholar alumna, earning her Master’s degree in Global Business Journalism from Tsinghua University in Beijing. She received her Bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

This article originally appeared on Republished with permission.