Where Consumers Shop for Apparel and Footwear

September 2022

Despite new COVID-19 waves, global sales of apparel and footwear recovered in 2021 with y-o-y growth driven by North America and Latin America. In terms of contribution, Asia Pacific, Western Europe and North America remain the largest markets. The industry benefited from the return of social events, and retailers pursuing digital transformation. However, with China’s extensive lockdown in March 2022, followed by Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation would rise impacting recovery.

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Key findings

Macroeconomic factors create recovery concerns

Despite new waves of COVID-19 that resulted in lockdowns and other restrictions across markets for part of 2021, global sales of apparel and footwear grew by 12% y-o-y in constant terms. The industry is set to grow over its 2019 size by 2024, but as China began its most extensive COVID-19 lockdown in two years in March 2022, followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, inflation rates are at an all-time high, resulting in an uneven and fragile recovery.

Asia Pacific dominates apparel and footwear

Asia Pacific leads apparel and footwear in terms of value sales, at USD663 billion in 2021, and accounts for 39% of all global spending on apparel and footwear. The region’s dominance is driven by China which accounts for 64% of all sales in the region. Its large population and highly aspirational consumer base have been key to its high share. India is another market that has a strong contribution and high potential to aid the region’s continued high share.

Rise in online sales continues as new shopping habits stick

COVID-19 has undeniably served as a catalyst for a stronger move towards digitalisation and direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales. Backed by innovation and rising access to technology, this has changed the way retailers deliver products and services. Consumers have also continued to warm to the thought of shopping online for convenience when mobility is restricted, quicker deliveries by online retailers and the introduction of new offerings such as click and collect.

Home-centric lifestyles benefit sportswear


Key findings

Industry snapshot

Apparel and footwear experiences recovery as inoculation aids the stabilisation of COVID-19
Sportswear drives recovery as people become health-conscious
China drives Asia Pacific to attain positive CAGR growth during 2016-2021

Channel shifts

Non-store retailing grows on the back of the rise in online sales
E-commerce accounts for the majority of sales within non-store retailing
Online sales surge eating into the share of store-based retailing

Store-based channels

Apparel and footwear specialist retailers accounts for the largest share in 2021
Sports goods stores leads with a positive CAGR
Stabilisation in COVID-19 results in apparel and footwear specialist retailers rebounding
FiSN opens physical store in Shenzhen , the Chinese coastal city it originated from
Digitally-native Gymshark opens flagship store in London to offer #IRL experiences
Ross Stores Inc jumps to second spot with its aggressive store expansion strategy
Innovation and suburbia boost performance of department stores in North America
US department stores continue to maintain their lead in the global ranking in 2021
Nordstrom and Asos enter into a joint venture to build capabilities in the US
Electric/City: Selfridges surfs between physical and digital with a new Pokémon experience
Sports goods stores leads with a positive CAGR
Skechers focuses on expanding presence in India
Adidas banks on Dubai with its new experiential DXB store mixing tech and non-tech features
Decathlon SA maintains its leadership position between 2016 and 2021
Nike retail concepts: Nike Rise store in Seoul
Apparel accounts for the largest contribution in private label sales in 2021
Western Europe leads the global sales of private label accounting for 42% of all sales
Decathlon increases space for its own private label in-store

Non-store channels

E-commerce dominates sales with the highest contribution in non-store retailing
E-commerce grows with highest contribution from China and the US
COVID-19 aids penetration of online sales in footwear
Australasia, Asia Pacific and North America experience double-digit growth in e-commerce
Fashion retailers expand digital presence even though pure play retailers maintain lead
Walmart offers virtual fitting room Zeekit and ThredUp second-hand items to crack fashion
Retailers partner with e-commerce companies to expand online presence
Nike focuses on consumer engagement with fitness app
Fashion beyond ownership likely to boom in the hard times ahead
The RealReal and Rebag open more physical US stores to attract new customers
Cocoon’s luxury handbags rental service is emblematic of changing consumer demands

Future developments

Uncertainty lies over the recovery of apparel and footwear global sales
Seeking growth opportunities beyond China
Online sales to maintain momentum…

Future Developments

…while the future retail revolution could be about direct-to-avatar (D2A)
Key takeaways


Definitions (1)
Definitions (2)
Definitions (3)

Apparel and Footwear

Apparel is the aggregation of clothing and footwear. This dataset covers retail sales of apparel through both store-based retailers and non-store retailers. Excludes black market sales (i.e. untaxed, generated within informal retailing)and duty free sales (travel retail). Items must be new when sold to the consumer; second-hand/used items are excluded. Antique and/or vintage clothing and footwear is also excluded.

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