BERLIN — Germany’s apparel retailers had a mixed year in 2013.


The nation’s small-to-middle-sized boutiques and specialty stores booked a 2 to 3 percent decline in sales, while vertical chains generated a slight plus, primarily due to store expansion. On a like-to-like basis, “many expansive fashion chains did not fare better than their (independent) competitors,” said the BTE or the German Apparel Retailer Association’s president Steffen Jost at the association’s annual press conference in Cologne Tuesday (February 18, 2014).


Prolonged winter weather put a dent in first half year sales and, capped by disappointing Christmas business, the rest of the year could not make up for 2013’s weak start. According to preliminary figures, 2013 German apparel retail sales were flat at 54.5 billion euros or $72.4 billion, Home-textiles, which fall under BTE reporting, generated another 5 billion euros or $6.64 billion. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at an average exchange rate for the period.


The BTE said only 31 percent of independent fashion retailers grew sales in 2013, with 55 percent falling behind 2012 sales levels. Similarly, only 28 percent saw earnings increase, with 48 percent reporting weakened profitability, largely due to early markdowns spurred by weather conditions, and rising energy costs.


E-commerce continued to grab market share, with Internet sales of apparel and home textiles rising 20 percent to reach about 8 billion euros or $10.6 billion. Sales via online shops now represent a 13 percent slice of total German apparel and home textile sales.


Despite these and other challenges, including falling consumer traffic in the stores, a BTE survey indicated 48 percent of Germany’s independent apparel retailers expect sales growth in 2014, and only 17 percent declining turnover. The association itself forecasts a moderate single-digit increase in 2014 sales.

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