3 Questions for Gildas Minvielle
Director of the Economic Observatory of the Institut Français de la Mode
With 2022 starting, the Director of the Economic Observatory, the Institut Français de la Mode’s publication, looks back at figures from 2021 and shares his outlook for the coming months.
What are the 2021 results for our sector, and what’s the forecast for 2022?
Since we don’t have all the statistics for 2021, the year hasn’t been finalised yet. But the results we have from the first 11 months show that the year was positive. That’s crucial, but not enough to compensate for the 2020 plunge when, according to the IFM panel, the market fell 15%. In 2021 there was an 11% upswing from January to November. But we don’t have numbers from December, an important month for the industry. Unfortunately, December 2021 is less promising than in 2020 which, thanks to the rescheduling of Black Friday, was exceptional. Even though the results don’t fully compensate – they’re 10% below 2019, the year prior to the health crisis and the reference for “normal” – we can still remain optimistic.
As far as any forecasts, with the new Coronavirus variant it’s difficult to make predictions. But the most likely scenario for 2022 is a return to the square one, meaning 2019 consumption levels.
How has consumer behaviour changed?
In this unusual period, things change more quickly. There are a lot of demands for sustainable development and environmental respect as well as for ethics, inclusion, and fighting inequality … These consumer attitudes existed before the health crises and came to the forefront with the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013. But they’ve accelerated in recent years. Another important evolution is digital technology, which has become an essential growth driver and represented 21% of the market in 2020 compared to 15% in 2019. Even if we think the phenomenon will stabilize, we have to acknowledge that, from now on, it represents around a quarter of the market. And it doesn’t concern only young people, it involves every generation. But buying online doesn’t mean the end of physical stores. They are still important, especially with the development of options such as click and collect and reserving products online. Stores evolved during the lockdowns, sometimes also serving as warehouses, but they are still at the centre of an omnichannel strategy. A new phygital balance is being created.
What are the business trends for the future?
A return to local activity is key. “Made in France” will certainly only account for a small percentage of the market and won’t play a role in large volumes. But, overall, we’re seeing a move to sourcing supplies more locally. The problem with masks during the first lockdown showed that we had taken deindustrialization too far. And that sparked a new approach, a kind of regionalisation: when we can’t produce in France, we choose neighbouring areas such as Europe or North Africa. This makes it possible to combine complementary skills: weaving in one country, making up in another, etc. The advantage of this proximity is, in particular, quicker turnaround times and shorter transport distances or lower carbon footprints. It’s encouraging to see so many businesses turning to this type of organization. We know about Le Slip Français and 1083, but there are many other mid-range to high-end brands adopting these models. Of course, that implies higher prices. And for some consumers, price is the determining factor; it’s a criterion that has become more important with the financial crisis. Fast fashion is not over, and ultra-fast fashion is even very popular, as proven by the success of brands like Shein. So the market is complicated. But I want to believe that, just like the food industry, we’ll evolve toward a “consume less but better” philosophy.