Today, we live in a fast-paced world where we have become accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it. Hungry? Quickly drive to the nearest fast food outlet and your food will be prepared within 7 minutes without you even having to get out of your car.Need a ride? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that. We are constantly searching for shortcuts and cringe at the thought of waiting for something.
Consumer’s expectations are the same for the fashion industry, and they have a growing appetite for fast fashion. Luxury retail is becoming exactly that, a product that can only be supported by the those who live luxurious lifestyles and brands like Prada are increasingly being replaced by fast retail brands like Zara.
One country, in particular, has earned an unstoppable reputation of being a manufacturing giant and is the preferred sourcing country for fast retail products in the world. Where is this haven we speak of you ask? Well, in China of course.
Fast fashion in China
Fast fashion is categorized by the rate at which apparel companies can produce their new styles in bulk, and how fast they can get them from the catwalk to the consumers at an affordable price. In China in 2015, fast fashion accounted for most of the growth as 7.7% increase was experienced in the fast retail industry, reaching CNY 534.7 billion. Furthermore, a 14.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) was experienced between the years 2010 - 2015.
As Western luxury brand’s position in the retail space continues to decline, fast fashion continues to grow as shoppers are attracted to trendy brands which they don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. Fast fashion in China is one of the most promising markets in the world, with Zara, Uniqlo, and H&M being the industry leaders of the pack. They entered the market between 2002 and 2007 and after rapid growth and success, other brands soon followed their lead. China’s success in the fast fashion industry can be attributed to the “Mix & Match” generation who are young Chinese consumers who are attracted to cheap designer knock offs. There are many other reasons why China is the most successful sourcing country for fast retail. Here are a few:
Vast Supplier Base
China is known for its vast supplier base which is incredibly expansive. China, being the world’s largest manufacturing company has an enormous deal of assembly work for consumer products which is done in factories throughout the country. This means that for the apparel industry there’s no doubt that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, no questions asked. The many factories in China allow for economies of scale to be achieved, which helps push factory costs down resulting in lower costs for your brand.
Starting with the most obvious benefit, sourcing fast fashion goods from China can be done at a much cheaper cost. Historically, manufacturers could get away with extremely low costs due to awfully low labor costs. However, even though the cost of labor has increased in China, and rightfully so, manufacturing and sourcing in China still remains extremely economical. Thus sourcing from China remains cost effective as the cost of raw materials, manufacturing, designs, packaging and shipping continues to be affordable. Lower costs will most definitely result in cost savings and better sales for your brand.
Larger Capacity / Quicker Time
You will not find one factory in China that lacks in capacity or capabilities. The fast fashion industry relies on bulk orders being produced in record time with great quality which is exactly what you’ll get when sourcing apparel goods from China. In addition to the impressive production speed, the machinery in Chinese factories is extremely powerful and sturdy, exactly what is needed to achieve a higher output.
Ability to Comply
Being able to comply is an important factor that can’t be overlooked. China has been under the radar regarding social, environmental and quality compliance over the past years, so much so that a form of “natural selection” of factories have developed over time. As a result, many small factories and workshops, that are disconnected from any notion of QMS and compliance, have unfortunately disappeared from the industry landscape.
Hence why most of the remaining actors whom are working for overseas brands have invested into modernizing their production tools, increasing their compliance with international labor standards and generally speaking, have greatly increased their awareness on internal norms, regulations and best practices.
As compliance and ethics becomes more and more essential to fast fashion brands and retailers, this ability to comply will lead to competitive advantage, compared to that of an underdeveloped country.
Factories in China have been in the manufacturing business longer than any other, and it’s safe to say that they’ve ironed out all the kinks in this process. Chinese sourcing factories have great manufacturing capabilities, management sophistication, efficiency and customer service. Many Chinese factories also go beyond the routine scope by offering extra services in which they help to increase the quality level, lower internal costs and provide any solutions to problems that may arise.
Among others, these are a few of the reasons as to why fast fashion in China continues to grow, so the next time you scout for a sourcing country for your fast retail brand, remember to consider China.
Did you find this blog useful? Do you have any other information to contribute on fast fashion in China and China as a sourcing country for fast reatil? Drop a comment below, we'd love to hear from you!