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French Clothing Buyers Opt for Intermittent Quality Over Low Prices

With discount garments suddenly out of fashion, French consumers look to save for fewer value-added items.

Photo: The fashionable French say “non” to hypermarket chic. (Shutterstock.com)
The fashionable French say “non” to hypermarket chic.
Photo: The fashionable French say “non” to hypermarket chic. (Shutterstock.com)
The fashionable French say “non” to hypermarket chic.

France's clothing market has been transformed over recent years, with the sector having to weather the impact of a variety of factors. In general, consumer confidence has been knocked by the failure of the country's economy to reignite, while a series of terrorist attacks has also had an adverse effect on footfall in the major retail centres. This has all been compounded by a two-pronged assault from online vendors and the newly significant fast-fashion sector.

The combination of these factors had, by and large, seen many French consumers lower their quality threshold with regard to garment purchases, with cheap, discounted products becoming very much the norm. The latest findings from Kantar Worldpanel, a Barcelona-headquartered market research group, however, suggest that this may be all about to change, with consumers once again favouring higher quality items, although only willing to purchase them in far smaller quantities than had been their previous practice.

In recent years, France's clothing market has been buoyed solely by low-cost products and by a series of ad hoc sales running outside of the traditional January and July discount periods. The upshot of this has been a distinct shift in purchase patterns, as well as an overall drop in sales volume.

Despite this, the country's urban chain store sites remain the most popular outlets among the clothes-buying public, while the market share of hypermarkets and department stores has been eroded by a number of increasingly popular e-commerce players. Overall, the top 20 retailers still account for 50% of sales volume, although there have been some seismic shifts in the ranking.

This has seen a number of the hypermarkets falling behind – Carrefour has dropped from second to fourth place, Camaïeu has dropped from 10th  to 12th and Lidl has fallen from 13th to 17th. At the same time, the chainstores have been powering ahead – Kiabi has risen from third to second in the overall ranking, Gemo has moved from 12th to ninth and Intersport is now 13th, having previously been 16th. At the foot of the table, two fast-fashion retailers have made their debut – Primark and Stokomani, appearing in 16th and 20th place respectively.

In addition to this new hierarchy, the Kantar Worldpanel report also indicates that consumers are now purchasing clothes far less frequently, with four times a year emerging as the new norm. The research also suggests that clothes buyers might be exchanging quantity for quality, with shoppers saving up to buy more expensive garments – possibly even bespoke items – during their comparatively rare excursions to the high street.

As a result, the report recommends that retailers and manufacturers look to differentiate their products, with purchasers now seeking added value rather than low-quality bargains. This is seen as particularly important in the hypermarket sector where the affordability USP is most under threat.

Eugene Leung, Paris Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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