PARIS — After nearly a decade of decline, France’s ready-to-wear clothing industry for women posted growth in 2017, with a 1.2 percent rise.
With the newfound growth under its belt, the sector is entering the new year with confidence and expectations business will speed up.
“We’re pretty happy — it’s very good news,” said Pierre-François Le Louët, president of the Federation Française du Prêt-à-Porter Feminin, noting that business was boosted by a convergence of warm weather and improved morale following the end of a long run-up to presidential elections.
“We see that morale improved after elections — we have reached a new level of confidence that is higher today than it has been in past years,” added Le Louët.
Exceptionally warm weather fueled purchases of skirts, dresses and light outerwear, with sportswear and swimsuits selling well, according to the federation’s annual report. As consumers bought smaller items, the average price of purchases declined 1.7 percent compared to 2016.
Average annual spending on ready-to-wear reached 458 euros over the year, a figure that was handily outpaced by older consumers, with the 55-to-64 age bracket spending an average of 585 euros.
Business during the winter sale season has declined as Black Friday and Cyber Monday gain ground in the country, and the first three weeks of the 2018 sales fell by 4 percent, the federation noted. The government is working to reduce the official sales period to four weeks from six.
French consumers are buying more on the Internet, with a 9.2 percent rise in online purchases over the year, to represent 13 percent of the country’s women’s rtw market.
The growth of exports slowed, with overseas sales up 7 percent compared to the previous year’s 10.4 percent rise. The main markets were other European countries like Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain, followed by the United States and China.
Last year, the federation worked with Alibaba’s Tmall, creating a boutique on the platform called called La French Boutique which sells 10 brands, helping them learn about the logistics of selling to China.
“We have ten brands there today, and we are looking to accelerate this in the future,” added Le Louët.
“We have an excessively busy program this year, promoting French brands abroad,” he added, ticking off the different shows for French brands in New York, Tokyo, Taipei and Shanghai.
The organization also invites foreign buyers to Paris to meet French brands, and this year will focus on Italy in the first half of the year and Canada for the latter six months. Canada is a relatively small market for French women’s rtw, but it is growing quickly, according to Le Louët.
The biggest trade show takes place in Tokyo, where 80 French brands are shown, and this year there will be the addition of more, younger brands.
Through a forum organized with the French finance ministry, the federation is also helping French brands accelerate their move to the digital sphere, offering advice for entering Amazon Fashion, and for considering if such a move makes sense.