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Breakthroughs that Will Shape the Future of the Underwear Industry

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Global Underwear Industry Analysis

The global underwear industry is estimated to be worth over $30 billion. The market encompasses a range of lingerie and intimate clothing, with bras representing over 50% of the overall market, briefs around 33%, and corsetry more than 10%. Style, evolving fashion trends and factors such as novelty and comfort are the main drivers of this industry.

One major change in the industry compared with traditional attitudes to underwear is that of underwear being worn as outerwear, reports Global Industry Analysts. The industry also faces serious challenges such as the increasing trend of outsourcing production to less expensive countries. The market is characterized by intense competition.

Aging populations in developed nations such as the US are slowing market growth. Growth potential, therefore, lays more in developing countries due to increasing income levels, trends toward Western fashion, a larger young population and rising standards of living. Lingerie consumers tend to make impulse buys, favoring factors other than necessity such as style.

Key Market Segments

The nightwear and knit underwear market is expected to exceed $70 billion by 2015, reports Global Industry Analysts. Factors fuelling the market include rising levels of disposable income, fabric innovation and new, more varied styles. Nightwear and knit underwear fared the economic recession better than other market segments as they are more necessary than other segments. The EU is the leading region for these products, followed by the US and Asia-Pacific. Plus-size demand is increasing in Western markets, with general demand for seamless intimates.

The world hosiery market is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2015, according to research from Global Industry Analysts. Hosiery encompasses several products including tights, socks, leggings and pantyhose. Changes in machinery used have increased productivity, with electronic knitting machines replacing mechanical knitting machines.

Regional Markets

The US lingerie market has been expanding over the past two decades, fuelled in part by the promotional campaigns of Victoria's Secret, bringing underwear fashion into the limelight and boosting a trend toward brand loyalty. Other retail outlets such as department stores are also getting in on the market. Customers are also purchasing from catalogs, and online retailers like Barenecessities.com.

China's underwear market exceeded $16 billion in 2010, with market growth of around 20% a year, according to the China Textile Industry Association. The market has seen rapid expansion, with more than 10,000 manufacturers set up across mainland China, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, showing the most rapid growth in the world.


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