Clothing Wholesale and Emerging Business Models in 2011?

The global Clothing Wholesale industry has had its share of ups and downs in the last few years, but this year will be the real litmus test, to see which market segment will emerge as the new leader of the pack. China’s recent reckoning with Brazil over trade imbalances has sent a message across the industry that clearly leaves all members of the buyer and seller community ready for action, as the results become known.

While China retains the title as champ for holding the highest level of economic growth and development – due to a thriving export culture that has been a dominant force since over three decades ago – the day of reckoning seems to be looming ahead, and other markets across the globe are poised or the moment that a new claim to market share can be made.

This comes as really bad news for some companies in China who have become quite accustomed to reaping the rewards of an easy export industry that has been backed by government support, in an effort to maintain double-digit GDP figures over the country’s expansion and development.

On the other hand, it’s great news for those in the business who have been waiting for their chance to develop their own manufacturing and trade channels. It also seems to be a nice alternative for countries that have been left somewhat weakened by the rough waters of economic pitfalls, and are ready to adopt new trade partners who can deliver the goods at better prices, or as some experts put it: “At a better service and support leverage point than China has delivered during her heyday.”

Countries like Asian juggernaut India are being joined by other contenders such as Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, and Vietnam in the race to get a foothold on new territories and consumer markets.

Also in the cross hairs of experts and industry players is the evolution of the buyer-driven and producer-driven commodity chains that have been the traditional model for wholesale clothing’s commodity chains.

Patrick Duchamp, an analyst for TMM Consultancy in Guangdong, China has put his words to the test, as his daily tweets and other social media messages have been asking the question: How long will the big three leading firms in the commodity chains exist? “It’s something I’ve been watching carefully, as have most others in this business.” Duchamp goes further, saying “You’ve got the large mega retailers like Wal-Mart and such, the branded marketing-driven players like Chanel and Luis Vuitton, and the clothes manufacturers who seem to be at the root of the whole thing.”

Although these three parts to the overall wholesale clothing market has played a dominating role as the ones who shape the industry, people like Duchamp doubt the validity of such a model in the future.

“With online retailing, and the reduction in centralized manufacturing dominance like we have in China, there will be a whole bunch of new things happening in the business that will really shake things up.”

A revival in American manufacturing seems far away and almost inconceivable to some, but the reality is that increased pressure on companies to perform more in line with national interests is making things interesting for the foreign suppliers who have grown comfortable in their positions as first-pick sources for goods that meet bottom-line minimum requirements.

Another medium to watch is the emerging demand for vintage items that is growing at a steady pace. As consumers develop more value-conscious shopping habits, vintage will also develop into a business that fits the needs of their customers.

Gone are the days of dusty bales of unwashed clothes going for cheap; the new vintage suppliers are being selective about what they promote, and they are doing it in larger numbers than before.

Many wholesalers who are turning to vintage are recognizing the opportunities in pre-selecting and sorting clothes that are ready for the sales racks.

Apparel continues to be a highly significant industry, from global economic perspectives. But how long will the current business models exist, before newer and more resourceful ones take their cue to innovate in the Clothing Wholesale industry?

Author:  Rueben Marley

Based out of China since 2006, Rueben Marley has a unique and first-hand perspective on what's shaping the industry today. Learn more about Rueben's career by visiting his Linkedin profile at

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