China and the United Arab Emirates maintained the two top spots in A.T. Kearney’s biennial ranking of the best markets for apparel retail development as Latin American markets, including Chile and Mexico, took large strides forward.

Chile jumped seven spots to number three in this year’s Retail Apparel Index as Kuwait dropped one notch to fourth place and Brazil was up two ticks to fifth place. Saudi Arabia was off one spot to sixth, Russia down three slots to seventh and Turkey down two to 10th.

Malaysia and Mexico, which failed to make the top 10 in the 2011 study, entered the top 10 at eighth and ninth place, respectively. India and Vietnam, numbers six and nine in the last survey, failed to make the top 10.

RELATED CONTENT: WWD Research Roundup >>

With a more narrow focus than Kearney’s Global Retail Development Index released last week, “clothing market attractiveness,” including such elements as apparel sales growth and urban and youth populations, accounted for 60 percent of a country’s ranking, with the remainder assigned according to country risk, principally a reflection of political factors, and retail development.

With an overall rating of 62.8, China edged out the UAE, at 62.4, and scored slightly higher than its 61.4 score in 2011. However, while China registered better apparel market attractiveness and country risk ratings, its retail development number dropped sharply, to 10.8 from 14.3.

That turnabout didn’t surprise Althea Peng, an A.T. Kearney partner and coauthor of the study. “China isn’t quite the aggressive growth story we saw in 2011,” she told WWD. “There has been a lot of shopping development, e-commerce has really taken hold and luxury is still going strong, but retailers are taking it just a bit slower there. China has a lot of competition for profitable expansion at this point.”

To go with its number-nine ranking overall, Mexico received the highest retail development score of any of the top 10 markets. “A lot of retailers are seeing Gap expanding rapidly there,” Peng said. “Brazil may be the strongest market in Latin America — huge and attractive — but business challenges remain. As far as new entry goes, it’s a bit easier to develop a regional retail strategy through countries like Chile and Mexico.”

She pointed out that Russia’s three-notch decline had more to do with its entering “the first stages of maturity” than any drop-off in fashion interest. Its 36.5 rating for clothing market attractiveness was the fourth highest among the top 10, behind only China (40.2), UAE (39.1) and Kuwait (38.8).

Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, China and the UAE topped last week’s GRDI rankings.