The UK fashion retail industry has been growing steadily over the last seven years and is currently valued at £32bn and spending rose to around £58.3bn at the end of 2018.
Around 555,000 people are employed in fashion sector, textiles and fashion retail in the UK. Retail employs 75 per cent with 414,000 people working in the retail sale of clothing. The highest-earning UK fashion companies are the Burberry Group Plc (worth £7.8bn), fast-fashion retailer Next (worth £5.5bn), M&S (worth £4.8bn), and ASOS (worth £4.8bn).
The retail sale of footwear and leather goods provides a fair amount of jobs in fashion. About 11 per cent, (59,000 employees) of those in the industry work within this sector. Another eight per cent (43,000 employees) work in the wholesale of clothing and footwear.
Menswear is the main driving force behind retail growth and is forecast to grow by 12.3 per cent over the next five years. Online growth continues to climb with 60.9 per cent of UK clothing shoppers having purchased at least one item of clothing over the past year.
Brexit remains top of the agenda for the industry with stark warnings issued by the British Fashion Council that a poor deal with the EU that doesn’t protect British designers’ ability to freely export could cost the market £1bn in the first year. Other concerns include the flow of goods both in and out of the UK, tariffs, and skills shortages. Technology is moving at such a pace that the bulk of jobs that people are being trained for today won’t exist in 10-15 years. Technology is not the only thing changing the sector but there’s also a shortage in practical skills. Gaps in key competencies across the whole supply chain, from fibre to finished garment and from in-house teams to external supply chain partners, are still prevalent.
‘Made in Britain’ products could rise in popularity as the UK works out trade agreements with other countries and there starts to be a higher focus on what the UK can produce itself as a nation.
Hyve Group (formerly ITE) made aggressive moves into the fashion sector with the acquisition of Ascential Events, adding Pure London, adding it to its already established shows – Jacket Required, Moda and Scoop – making it a one-stop shop for all things fashion. Martin Arnold, portfolio director, fashion said: “The Fashion Portfolio encompassing Pure London, Moda, Scoop and Jacket Required has really benefited from the global centralised operating systems designed to deliver the best experience and ROI, while maintaining their market-leading individuality and passion. The Group offers access to a global network of agents, some of the best retail data in the business, and allows our brands to prosper under the ownership of a specialist exhibition organiser.”
Other notable UK fashion shows include London Fashion Week. Arguably the most important date in the UK fashion calendar, it allows over 250 designers to showcase their products to a global market. London Fashion Week is known as one of the ‘Big Four’ of the fashion weeks, along with New York Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. Attended by over 5,000 press and buyers, it routinely generates orders of over £100m. The retail-focused London Fashion Week Festival takes place immediately after Fashion Week.
There are also a number of other fashion retail events including; Fashion Evolution, FashionablyIn and Fashion SVP. All medium-sized shows, these events are mainly focused on helping companies break into the fashion market.
The key trend for all areas of the fashion market is sustainability. The impact fast fashion is having on the environmnet is being recognised, giving way to a rise in more sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly practices. This can be anything from jewellery made of recycled plastic, clothes made from organic and biodegradable materials, transparency in business practices or vintage/reclaimed clothes. Either way, fashion is going green.
From your head to your toes, what you wear is becoming less about functionality and more about making a statement. Large, oversized accessories like earrings, necklaces and bracelets are becoming more popular, whilst bright colours and platform shoes are on the rise. This turn towards the more out-there aspects of fashion are becoming more popular as Gen Z – arguably the loudest of the generations – are starting the make their voices heard not only both online and in person, but also via their wardrobes.
Mainstream fashion takes inspiration what the catwalks and celebrities are doing, and the rise in wearable tech both on the catwalk and at awards ceremonies hints at the fact that technology is getting more and more integrated into fashion. Whether it’s Apple completely outselling the Swiss watch industry in 2019, Billy Porter’s mechanical hat at the Grammys or electronic wool at Paris Fashion Week 2018, the limits for technology and fashion seem endless. Whilst it may be more for avant-garde pieces at the moment, keep an eye out for more fully-integrated fashion in the future.
AI is becoming increasingly more common throughout all industries, and fashion is no different. On way it is currently being used is by ASOS to help their customers find their perfect fit. Using their Fit Assistance tool, customers submit various information using height, weight, age, hip and waist appearances, measurements, preferred fit (tight, average or loose), and their size in popular brands. After shoppers enter information, the AI immediately suggests a size and shows the percentage of other shoppers who responded similarly and which sizes they purchased. In addition, the tool also tells the customer what percentage of other shoppers were happy with recommended size.
Fit Assistance is powered by FitAnalytics, a sizing platform that combines a platform that uses a database of garment information and purchase histories.
ASOS have also trialled AR as a way to help customers find their perfect fit, by allowing them to see the same garment on various body sizes. Called See My Fit, the tool is currently available for 800 dresses across the ASOS site. The feature allows customers to view 16 models who range in size from a dress size four to an 18, and in height from 5’ 1’’ to 5’ 9’’, all wearing the same dress. The technology works by digitally mapping the products onto the models.
The use of AI and AR is set to become more and more prevalent, with other retailers offering AR, from Zara allowing customers to see models wearing clothes on their mannequins via their phones, to GAP allowing shoppers to virtually ‘try on’ clothes via a virtual avatar customised to look like them, to Wannaby allowing customers to see what their shoes would look like on their feet.
Hyve organises a range of fashion shows, covering the entire fashion market. The shows in their portfolio include Scoop, a premium womenswear show, Pure and the co-located Pure Origin, a fashion sourcing event spanning mens, womens and kidswear, Moda, a womenswear, footwear and accessories trade show, Jacket Required, a premium menswear show, and Jewellery and Watch, which covers the accessories market.
Jewellery & Watch and Moda take place at the NEC, Birmingham, Pure takes place at London Olympia and Jacket Required and Scoop take place at the Saatchi Gallery.
Each show routinely attracts thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors each season.
2. London Fashion Week
Organised by the British Fashion Council, London Fashion Week (LFW) is a biannual event that takes place in February and September, showcasing over 250 designers to a global audience. LFW is followed by London Fashion Week Festival (LFWF), a city-wide event dedicated to fashion which encompasses the International Fashion Showcase (IFS), LFW and the ticketed LFWF. IFS features The British Council, British Fashion Council (BFC) and Mercedes-Benz collectively presenting work by emerging fashion designers from 26 countries, whilst LFWF gives attendees access to catwalk shows, a curated talks schedule and designer shopping from over 150 British and international brands.
London Fashion Week routinely attracts over 5000 attendees.
FashionablyIn started as an alternative market trade show – a place for those who wished to fully break into the UK Fashion market. Originally a virtual meeting space, FashionablyIn has since evolved to a physical event, taking place at Courthouse Hotel, Soho. FashionablyIn aims to be a tradeshow/meetup for those in the fashion industry, and has events not only in the UK, but also in the US, France, Spain, and Italy, with a plan to host 24 events throughout 2020.
4. Fashion Evolution
Organised by Adam and Alice, Fashion Evolution is an event that aims to revolutionise the fashion market. Bringing together socially and environmentally sustainable fashion brands, industry guest speakers, buyers and investors during London Fashion Week, the new for 2020 event hopes to help those that attend with their ethical and sustainable goals.
5. Fashion SVP
Fashion SVP is a fashion sourcing event which presents buyers with over 100 global apparel producers and is organised by IDEX Exhibitions. The show combines exhibition, conference and seminar sessions, clinics and practical demonstrations featuring leading industry figures and experts, a jobs forum and more.