Italy’s children's fashion industry on a steady rise thanks to exports

Italy’s children's fashion industry on a steady rise thanks to exports

The Italian children's fashion industry is growing moderately: turnover in 2016 is up +1.2% to €2.721 billion, stimulated once again by exports that have, for the first time ever, exceeded €1 billion. According to estimates by the Italian Fashion System (SMI), last year foreign sales reached €1.028 billion, a 3.1% growth.

This positive note brings exports to around 38% of turnover, though this is somewhat sluggish in comparison to the past three years.

It means that over the last five years, Italian companies that produce children's fashion (though they tend to be smaller firms on the whole) were able to increase the weight of exports on their earnings by 6.5 percentage points—from 31.3% at the end of 2011, to 37.8% now. This is still far from the levels seen in adult fashion, but internationalization is continuing in spite of the difficulties. All eyes are on Russia, a strategic market not just for the newborn segment (which has slowed its fall but not managed to get back on the rise). 

Exhibitors at Pitti Bimbo children's fashion shows are paying a particular interest to foreign buyers: this well known international exhibition (in terms of quality and research) opened yesterday at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence (and will run until tomorrow) with 503 brands—280 of which (53%) are foreign—presenting their new fall/winter collections. There will be an estimated 7,000 buyers, from around 50 countries.

For the Italian companies, the key is endurance.

“In spite of the incertain and complex context,” SMI explains, “children's fashion is expected to maintain a positive development throughout the first part of 2017, even through trends are moderate.”

As consolation, the Italian market has experienced a slight recovery: after a big slowdown in recent years, domestic purchases (among families, non-families, and others) have stopped falling (-0.1% to €4.236 billion in 2016), with some two-month periods even showing positive trends (like July-August, at +1%).

The current changes in the distribution channels are very significant. Independent stores are shrinking, while chain stores and large-scale retailers are expanding constantly. The fall-winter sales for 2015-2016 say it all: the chain stores got stronger (+3.2%, claiming 50.9% of the market); large-scale retailers skyrocketed (+13.2%, 26.9% of the market); and independent stores crashed (-16%, 13.5% of the market). E-commerce shrank (-4.8%) as well. 

In the 0-7 years old division, families were inclined to spend more: large-scale retailers (that is, single-brand and multi-brand stores, wholesalers, and supermarkets) performed the best. According to figures from Sita Ricerca, in 2016 large-scale retailers represented 82.2% of total spending (in terms of value) for Italian families. Four years ago, it was only 72.4%.



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