This is the second post in the series. In the first part, I talked about how the dominance of one player on the eyewear market led to unjustifiably high prices for the consumers, thus creating an opportunity for a massive disruption.
This time, I wanted to focus on an entirely different kind of market: much more diversified, often characterized by cutthroat competition and therefore low margins. This space, however, still offers room for a significant innovation in terms of product, customer service and operations.
Clothing Industry: Huge But Competitive
Apparel market in the U.S. alone reached $208 billion in 2014, according to NPD Group estimates. Footwear and accessories accounted for another $62 and $52.7 billion, respectively. Online apparel sales reached $52 billion. What’s even more interesting is that the space remained quite fragmented: top-9 retailers accounted only for 35% of the market, with Macy’s, Wal-Mart and Target being the largest ones with 9%, 7% and 5.4% shares.
Putting all those numbers aside, the main question is whether there still is a significant opportunity for innovation in this market. Granted, the market is huge, which creates strong incentives to look for untapped opportunities. However, unlike the eyewear market discussed in the first part of this post, this is also a very efficient market (in terms of competition), with a huge amount of players operating in the space: for example, apparel retailers’ net profit margins are usually lower than all-industry retail averages of around 8%. E-commerce apparrel retailers lack high margins as well because, while having significant advantages in terms of operations, they are usually forced to accept lower gross margins due to intense competition, lack of differentiation and a number of other issues (e.g. high percentage of returns), and also often have to engage in...Read More