Value fashion giant Primark this week revealed plans to launch in the US next year. Retail Week takes a look at the value fashion market over the pond.
Why are we talking about it now?
This week Primark joined a long line of retailers hungry for a slice of the American fashion pie when it unveiled plans to open its first US store in a 70,000 sq ft unit in Boston next year. The Boston store will kick off a wave of expansion with openings in New York State and Pennsylvania likely to follow in quick succession.
How big is the market?
The market is estimated to be worth £202bn annually for clothing alone - £303bn including footwear, accessories, bags and leather goods - and is growing at an average rate of 3% per year in US Dollars, according to Conlumino.
Who are the biggest players in the US value fashion market?
American shoppers have plenty of options when it comes to the value fashion market. Planet Retail senior analyst Stephen Springham says: “In Continental Europe Primark doesn’t have many competitors; you could argue that the US is saturated with value fashion”.
TJX operates two of the biggest brands - TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Both are positioned in the off-price category so not direct competitors to Primark, but with just shy of 2,000 stores they are formidable operators.
Gap’s Old Navy chain is positioned much closer to the value market Primark will be after, and focuses primarily on family shopping. With 930 stores in the US alone, generating sales of $5.69bn last year - far outstripping the Gap brand - it’s a serious retailer with a flourishing online platform behind it.
Primark has already grappled with one of its future US competitors, but this time Forever 21 will be on home territory. It operates a relatively modest 450 stores, but with a well-established international brand that has already proved to be a hit with youth shoppers, Forever 21 occupies a strong position in the market and is perhaps the most similar offer out there.
Along with the 1,102 Ross Dress for Less stores, themselves turning over a staggering $10.2bn last year, value shoppers are hardly underserved. And that’s not taking the supermarkets into account.
The US is home to some giant all-purpose retailers, which have serious stakes in value fashion. It’s difficult to say how much of a market share these chains have in clothing alone, but with the top three – grocers Walmart and Kroger, as well as general merchandise giant Target- counting 9,300 stores between them, their ubiquitous presence is likely to make any challenger wary.
How might Primark succeed where others have failed?
While there is an abundance of competitors for Primark, its offer is solid, and, says Springham, unique among them in that it genuinely offers fashion for less as opposed to just low-priced clothing.
“It’s probably head and shoulders above most of the market,” he adds. “It’s a great business and it manages itself very well; it’s stronger than a lot of its competitors not just in terms of value but fashion as well”.