Clothing consumption in Finland will grow at an annual rate of about two per cent from the present to 2023. The average Finnish consumer’s spending on clothing is about 65 per cent of the average Norwegian’s spending and Finns’ spending on footwear is just over half of what the average Austrian spends. Finns buy clothing and footwear — and even sportswear — to a large extent from supermarkets, which have further increased their appeal compared to the previous year. It appears that supermarkets have been able to respond to international competition for consumers.

It is no coincidence that three of the world’s six most valuable clothing brands are sportswear brands and the other three are low-priced clothing brands, with Nike being the leader by a clear margin. The global trend of price-driven fast fashion is supporting brands such as Zara and H&M in spite of difficulties. The use of sporty clothing continues to grow as the ageing population prioritises comfort, particularly in footwear, indicates a new report on the clothing and sportswear market by the Finnish Commerce Federation.

While the US clothing and footwear markets are still the largest in the world, China will catch up with them in just a few years’ time. Even the Chinese market’s growth rate pales in comparison to India, where clothing purchases will grow by more than 70% by 2023. The global consumption of clothing is increasingly shifting away from Europe and North America, which now account for less than half of the global consumer clothing market.

Supermarkets are going strong, also in the Helsinki region

Last year, at least one in five Finns bought clothing or footwear from supermarkets. This year, one in three shop for clothing in Prisma and one in four shop for clothing in Tokmanni and K-Citymarket.

“It appears that Finnish supermarkets are able to respond to the increased competition for customers created by international fast fashion chains and online stores,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation.

In the Helsinki region, where there is a greater variety of brick-and-mortar shops than elsewhere in the country, supermarkets have increased their share of customers. Nevertheless, Stockmann has maintained its position as the leading clothing retailer in the Helsinki region.

Young women and men are frequent customers of online stores and international fast fashion chains. As they get older and possibly have families, they increasingly shift their purchases to supermarkets and sportswear retailers. In the over-50 age group among women as well as men, the top 10 includes the traditional Finnish clothing department stores Halonen, Sokos and Stockmann.

Sporting goods stores are clothing stores

The list of Finland’s top 10 clothing and footwear stores includes three traditional sporting goods retailers, but supermarkets are also challenging them in the sportswear segment. This trend is particularly evident in the over-50 age group in sportswear. The Intersport chain is the leading sportswear retailer among women over 50 years of age, but the supermarkets are right behind it. Among men over 50 years of age, the top four includes two sporting goods stores.

“The competition between sporting goods stores and supermarkets may intensify further. As people grow older and seek more functional and comfortable clothing, the ageing population may represent a growing consumer base for sportswear,” Kurjenoja predicts.

To be successful in this competitive landscape, retailers need to understand and anticipate the paths to purchase taken by different groups of consumers. Sportswear purchases follow slightly different patterns than clothing and footwear purchases in general: the traditional brick-and-mortar store plays a stronger role in both the information search and the purchase itself. When it comes to clothing and footwear purchases in general, men are less likely to seek pre-purchase information than women. In sportswear, however, men are more eager than women to seek information.

Price is the most decisive factor in the choice of where to buy clothing. Women are even more price-conscious than men, also when it comes to sportswear. For men, price is a more significant selection criteria in purchases of sportswear compared to other clothing, as is the actual or perceived quality of the product.

There are also differences between men and women — and sportswear and other clothing — when it comes to mobile shopping. Slightly over one fifth of women in the under-50 age group make mobile purchases of clothing and footwear using a smartphone or tablet. The corresponding figure for men is substantially lower. However, among men under 35 years of age, one in four are now making sportswear purchases via mobile channels, compared to less than one in five women.

Moderate growth in clothing consumption in Finland

Finland is a small clothing market and the average consumer’s shopping basket is not of particularly high value. We spend about €720 per year on clothing, which is 65% of the average Norwegian’s basket. We spend just under €130 on footwear, which is just over half of the average Austrian’s annual spending on footwear. Norwegians are at the top of the global chart for spending on clothing, while Austrians have the top spot for footwear. The average Finn’s shopping basket for apparel is the sixth-largest in the world, but still just over 60% of their Norwegian counterpart.

The growth of the Finnish clothing market relies primarily on increases in the value of the shopping basket, either through higher prices or consumers choosing to buy more expensive items. In Sweden, where the growth rate is predicted to be twice as high as in Finland, market growth is based on both higher consumption and higher value. The impact of the ageing population is evident in many European markets, as is the effect of low economic growth. Sweden constitutes an exception in this regard.

“A growing working-age population is one of the basic drivers of economic growth and private consumption. Of course, this is an issue with bigger repercussions than simply the slow growth of the clothing market, but clothing retail may be an area where the problem becomes apparent faster than in other sectors of retail,” Kurjenoja concludes.

For further information, please contact: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378, jaana.kurjenoja@kauppa.fi

Attachment: Clothing and sportswear retail 2019

Study: Kurjenoja Jaana (2019): The clothing market and the consumer’s path to purchase. Finnish Commerce Federation.

(The statistical data and forecasts in the report are primarily based on the Consumer Market Outlook, Digital Market Outlook, Global Survey and eCommerceDB databases by Statista as well as company data retrieved from the Vainu.io search engine. The sections on the consumers’ path to purchase are based on two sample-based consumer surveys conducted by TNS Kantar in March–April 2019. The person in charge of the research design, the design of the questionnaire forms for the consumer surveys and the analysis of the results is Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce – the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 300,000 people in Finland. The Federation has around 7,000 member companies and represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry policy and labour market lobbying. Kauppa.fi