PARIS — Sales of women’s ready-to-wear in France hit a three-year low in the first six months of 2016, when exports and digital proved to be the industry’s sweet spots.
The women’s apparel business declined 2.8 percent in sales terms to 4.9 billion euros, or $5.47 billion, and 2.9 percent on a unit basis, during the first half versus the same prior-year period, according to data released by the French Women’s Ready-to-Wear Federation.
In the second quarter, the market struggled even more, with sales dropping 8.2 percent in April alone. The federation said a wintery spring with gloomy and rainy weather, plus the difficult social climate due to transport disruptions and the after-effects of the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere contributed to negatively impacting sales of spring-summer collections.
“We don’t have the wind at our backs,” said Pierre-François Le Lout, who succeeded Daniel Wertel as the federation’s president in June, during a press conference here Wednesday. “Good news comes from exports.”
Exports of women’s rtw from France in the first half were up for the eighth year running, increasing by 1.2 percent to surpass 1.5 billion euros, or $1.67 billion. Revenues from within the European Union made up 55 percent of the total. Sales to Italy rose 9.8 percent, 17.5 percent to Spain and 9.1 percent to the U.K., where no immediate impact has been noted due to Brexit, the federation said. Meanwhile, exports to the U.S. were up 5 percent and they rose 4.7 percent to Russia.
Sales to Mainland China and Hong Kong combined fell 23.7 percent and declined 2.3 percent to Japan.
The department store channel in France represented 7.6 percent of the women’s apparel business, a stable share. “It resisted despite tourist numbers being down 7 percent in the first eight months of the year, according to official numbers,” said François-Marie Grau, the federation’s managing director.
In the first half, sales and promotional offers generated 44.1 percent of women’s rtw revenues, versus 47.9 percent in the same prior-year period. Seventeen percent of women’s clothing sales were made online, up from 2 percent in 2006. “All generations are now concerned,” said Grau, who also noted that discounts and promotions led to 93.4 percent of digital sales.
The average budget per woman for apparel was down 3.9 percent to 173 euros, or $193.
Overall clothing sales in France, including men’s wear and children’s wear, declined 1.6 percent in first-half 2016. Men’s wear revenues rose 0.3 percent, while children’s wear sales decreased 0.7 percent.
Dollar figures are calculated at average exchange for the period to which they refer.
Apparel sales in France in July and August were negatively impacted by exceptionally poor weather and low tourist numbers in Paris and the French Riviera after the terrorist attack in Nice. However, the federation hopes that the outlook will be flat for the full year.
“Unemployment is decreasing, fundamentals are good. If there’s no disruptive element that comes up, there’s no reason that clothing sales won’t benefit,” Grau said.