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Cotton Incorporated’s “China in Focus” Report: Another Great Resource from Cotton Inc.

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I just finished reading a report from Cotton Incorporated that I have to tell you about.   This report, entitled “China in Focus: A Burgeoning Apparel Market”, is their latest Supply Chain Insights Special Report.  In it, I learned a ton of useful information regarding China’s emerging apparel market and Chinese consumer’s attitudes toward clothing.  The results were compiled from data gathered during the Cotton Council International & Cotton Incorporated’s Chinese Consumer Survey.  Additional insights were provided by Cotton Council International & Cotton Incorporated’s Global Lifestyle Monitor Survey.



I encourage you to read the full report here, because there is so much insight to be gathered there regarding the apparel market in China.  Here, I’ll share some of my takeaways after reading the report.

Interesting Facts About the Chinese Apparel Market

The Chinese apparel market is the 2nd largest in the world (US per capita spending on apparel is still 4 times the per capita spending in China.  In addition, the US apparel market size is the biggest at $192.7 Billion in 2010 and the China apparel market size is 2nd at $63 Billion in 2010).  Some analysts say the Chinese apparel market will TRIPLE in size by 2020 (, “Capturing the Dynamic Growth of China’s Fashion Market”, July 21, 2011).

More than 7 out of 10 (74%) Chinese say they “love” or “enjoy” shopping for clothes.  That figure is up from 68% in 2008.

More Chinese say they like to shop for clothes than any other consumer item.

85% of Chinese say they will spend the same or more on clothing as they did last year.  Only 15% say they will spend less than last year.

What Drives Chinese to Buy?

The reasons that Chinese shop for clothing are based in practicality, on the whole.  They shop mostly for “need-based” reasons like clothing replacement (56%) or seasonal clothing needs (55%).  Only 18% of Chinese buy clothing to be trendy.

Fit (84%) and style (80%) are the two most significant drivers for Chinese apparel purchases.  Almost as important are factors that include fiber content (77%), price (76%), and finishing (75%).  The 3 factors of fiber content, price, and finishing together help paint the picture of how important apparel quality is to Chinese shoppers.  The report also shows that there are differences in shopping behaviors based on demographics, because parts of China (South) exhibit older, more mature clothing market behaviors, for example, and others (West) emulate the behaviors of those consumers in a newly-emerging apparel market.

How Important is Fiber Content?

Chinese consumers, just as consumers in the rest of the Cotton Incorporated Global Lifestyle Monitor Survey, equate higher cotton content with higher quality, especially in T-Shirts, dress shirts, denim jeans, and dresses.  Chinese consumers will also pay more to maintain cotton content in their clothing.

What do Chinese consumers think about brand names?

By and large, most Chinese consumers purchase domestic clothing brands, and they perceive branded clothing to be of a higher quality than non-branded clothing.  However, Chinese consumers will purchase a few key international brands (Jeans West, Levi, adidas, Nike, for example) when they perceive those international brands to be of very high quality with a good reputation.

How do Chinese consumers purchase clothing?

Most Chinese consumers shop for their clothing at department stores and specialty stores, as opposed to shopping for them at chain stores, warehouse clubs, off-price stores, or street markets.   I found some of the most intriguing stats to be related to internet apparel shopping.  Chinese shoppers are like the rest of the world in that 77% of consumers shop for apparel online.  Further, a majority of Chinese consumers (72%) turn to  multi-brand ecommerce sites first to shop for clothing online.  It is likely that they use these sites to check customer reviews, compare prices, and “window shop” the latest styles before deciding on a purchase. 

Conclusion & my personal takeaways after reading this report

The Chinese apparel market is growing, and will continue to grow at an accelerated pace over the next decade.  There is still a great deal of room for growth in Chinese apparel spending, as revealed by their per capita apparel spending as compared to their GDP per capita.  What does that mean for international apparel brands looking to capitalize on this market?  Well, right now, Chinese consumers get the lion’s share of their clothing from their own domestic apparel companies.  The report does show, however, that Chinese consumers are willing to buy international brands that are known for their high quality and solid reputation. 

The statistics that stood out to me the most were that the two drivers that push apparel buying behaviors in China are fit and style. From 2002 to 2005, I worked for adidas, which is one of the international brands that Chinese consumers are willing to pay for.  I know from experience that adidas does pay special attention to regional fit and style requirements for different local markets all over the globe.  At the time I worked for adidas, I didn’t quite realize how significant that is to consumer buying behaviors, but this report puts that experience I had with adidas into perspective.  In the business of apparel, where color-matching, material quality, and global supply concerns such as cost and delivery tend to take precedence, we must remember what is important to consumers.  The idea that apparel companies should be mindful of and take into account regional fit and style desires is pretty easy to overlook, but dangerous to ignore.

This report tells me three things:  1) there is a huge potential to sell into the Chinese apparel market to consumers in the coming years, 2) and in order to do that, international companies must make the Chinese fit and style requirements a priority in designing and developing garments specifically for those markets.  And finally, 3)  in designing for the Chinese market, an international company that successfully sells into China must realize that it will not be enough to have a single China market strategy, but several, based on key demographic factors and geographic regions of the country.

For more information on the report and others like it, visit  For more information on Technical Textile Solutions, write Michelle Roberts @




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  • Zhang Bochun

    August 17, 2012 at 1:49 am

    Michelle, I have read the blog carefully and follow comments for reference:
    1, China is a large country and exist big difference from east to west.
    If foreign company want enter China market, they had better choose some rich province to start, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guangdong.

    2, Chinese people prefer foreign brand, not only the big brands such as Nike, Adidas, but also some small foreign brands if they have good style and quality.

    3, The price of garment on Internet is really cheap in China while garment in department is much expensive, even high than US. There are toal different group buy garment online or in department.

    4, Garment has foreign brand, foreign fabric, foreign design while made in China factory sell in China market means low cost and high profit.

  • m.amjad mian

    August 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    in my view there are un countable companies in china and other countries who make apparels/garments which are far better than branded products but since it has become trend to chase and crazy about brand names , so pay much more than the prices of any wearings made by unbranded company ,i agree with the 3 conclusive findings of Michelle and appreciate her depth of report.

  • marianhogan

    October 30, 2012 at 12:03 am

    as expected another great post from you!
    hope to see more from you
    Everything £5

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