Women's and Children's Apparel Wholesalers

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 6,900 women’s, children’s, and infant apparel wholesalers in the US act as middlemen between apparel suppliers and retailers. Major revenue categories include dresses and blouses; outerwear; underwear; and infant and children’s clothing. Some firms also sell men’s and boy’s clothing, unisex clothing, and furs. Because the majority of apparel sold in the US is produced overseas, most wholesalers must work with long lead times.

Trends, Fads, and Seasonality

The apparel market is driven by fashion trends and fads, which create uneven demand for wholesalers.

Complex Supply Chain

The apparel supply chain is long and complex, and typically involves numerous parties, many of which are located overseas.

Industry size & Structure

The average women's, children's, and infant apparel wholesaler operates out of a single location, employs 8-9 workers, and generates $9-10 million annually.

    • The women's, children's, and infant apparel wholesale industry consists of about 6,900 firms that employ about 60,400 workers and generate about $67 billion annually.
    • The women's, children's, and infant apparel wholesale industry is fragmented; the top 50 companies account for 37% of industry revenue.
    • Most domestic apparel companies (which are technically classified as apparel manufacturers) own or license brand names and outsource the majority of production to third-party manufacturers overseas. These apparel companies are often referred to as wholesalers because they sell apparel at wholesale to major accounts.
    • Large apparel companies with wholesale operations include VF Corporation (The North Face, Dickies, JanSport, Easkpak) and PVH Corporation (Calvin Klein, Izod, Olga, Warner's).
                              Industry Forecast
                              Women's and Children's Apparel Wholesalers Industry Growth
                              Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                              Recent Developments

                              Mar 15, 2023 - Sales Growth at Clothing Retailers
                              • Sales for clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 4.1% unadjusted year over year but declined 0.8% month over month seasonally adjusted in February 2023, according to data released by the National Retail Federation. Overall retail sales were up 5.4% in February 2023 over a year ago but down 0.4% from January 2023, according to the US Census Bureau. NRF’s retail sales calculation, which excludes car dealers, gas stations, and restaurants, showed an increase of 6.5% unadjusted year over year and 0.5% month over month in February 2023. According to NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz, “Sales growth has slowed in recent months, but consumers’ economic health still looks good. February is typically the slowest month of the year, so monthly fluctuations are expected. Sales are higher than last year and that’s due in large part to the strong labor market, which means more income and spending.”
                              • A new federal law is allowing US importers to challenge millions in late fees imposed by global ocean carriers, according to the Wall Street Journal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, shippers of apparel, furniture, and other products were fined by ocean carriers for delays in picking up and returning containers, even when importers could not move the boxes due to circumstances beyond their control. Some port terminals were so congested during the pandemic that operators stopped truckers from collecting or returning containers for extended periods. In some cases, the ocean carriers and terminal companies only released the containers once the fees were paid. Passed by Congress in June, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act endorses a Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) rule that says late fees should only be used to encourage importers and exporters to keep freight moving and that if a shipper cannot move a box due to situations like bottlenecks, the charges should not apply. Shippers can also file complaints about unfair fees with the FMC using a new expedited claims process that shifts the burden of proof onto carriers to show fees are valid. The FMC has received about 250 complaints under the new expedited process. So far, the complaint review process has led to $800,000 being refunded or waived.
                              • Distribution companies are reporting higher in-use levels for many automation categories, including automated storage and retrieval systems, according to Modern Materials Handling’s “2023 Automation Solutions Study.” The study found that the in-use level for automated storage and retrieval systems reached 44% compared to 32% the previous year. When asked about which key processes are automated, respondents said reporting (up to 29% from 22% the previous year), conveyance (up to 25% from 18%), and labeling (up to 22% from 14%). The anticipated spending levels for 2022 are lower than the previous year, with $1.57 million expected for 2022 compared to $2.02 million the last year. The pandemic's effect on businesses is lessening; 52% said the pandemic is not changing plans, up from 43% the previous year. The study contained responses from professionals involved in the materials handling and fulfillment operations.
                              • US manufacturing activity, a demand indicator for wholesale sales, contracted in December 2022, falling below the baseline for growth for the second consecutive month, according to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), per Modern Materials Handling. The ISM’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) in December fell to 48.4%, down from 49% in November. A reading above 50% indicates manufacturing expansion. December’s New Orders Index fell two percentage points to 45.2%. The December Production Index fell 3 percentage points to 48.5%. Of the manufacturing industries tracked by the ISM, only two reported growth in December: Primary Metals and Petroleum & Coal Products. Thirteen sectors reported contraction including Apparel, Leather & Allied Products; Computer & Electronic Products; Machinery; Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Transportation Equipment; and Miscellaneous Manufacturing.
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