The UK Retail Fashion Industry


Introduction. 2

Size and Structure of UK Fashion Industry. 2

Retail Formats in UK Fashion Industry. 3

Current Customer and Retail Environments. 4

Conclusion. 4

References. 6


            The aim of this report is to provide a comprehensive overview of the UK fashion industry between 2017 and 2022 using a strong data support. Here, the main focus would be on the current value of the nation’s fashion industry, its structure, main fashion retail formats, and current customer and retail environments. The report would also discuss pound currency effects in the global market, structure of buying and merchandising, buying cycle process, and key performance indicators for customer and retail environments. The influence of Brexit on the UK retail market would also be assessed, including the implication of having a-third of the nation’s retailers being ill prepared for a no-deal Brexit.


Size and Structure of UK Fashion Industry

            The UK fashion industry is one of the most well-established industries in the country. In September, 2018, British Fashion Council estimated the UK fashion industry’s worth at 32 billion pounds (British Fashion Council, 2018). At this value, the UK fashion industry commands a market share of 6% of the GDP. The industry employs about 555,000 people in different segments, with majority working in the retail sale of clothing sub-industry. About 414,000 people work in the retail sale of clothing and this account for 75% of the total number of people who work in the UK fashion industry. The other sub-sections of the UK fashion industry that employ significant number of people are footwear and leather goods, 11%, wholesale of clothing, 8%, manufacture of wearing apparel, 6%, and manufacture of footwear, 1% (Hallberg, 2017).

The growth prospects of the UK fashion are positive, with PR Newswire putting the growth at 16% over the next five years: 2017-2022 (PR Newswire, 2017). At this rate, the UK fashion industry would be worthy 51.2 billion pounds by 2022. The current growth prospect, which is 3.9 points stronger than that of the previous five years, 2012-2017, will mostly be driven by inflation until 2020. The weakening of pound also implies that the industry would suffer from high costs of imports and manufacturing. Due to inflation, shoppers would have tosqueeze their disposable income and give priorities to more essential goods and leisure activities (Jackson & Shaw, 2016).

Retail Formats in UK Fashion Industry

The three main retail formats that are used in the UK fashion industry are department stores, specialist apparel stores, and supermarkets. Recently, however, e-retailing has emerged as a dominant retail format in the industry. First, department stores sell a wide range of goods sourced from specific companies. In the UK, about 26% of apparel is sold through established department stores, which include John Lewis, Mark & Spencer, Selfridges, Debenhams, and House of Fraser (McCormick, et al., 2014). Various fashion brands collaborate with these retailers for sale of their products.

Specialist stores, on the other hand, are owned and run by fashion companies that are keen on stocking and selling their own products. Under this format, retail-branded products are sold in retailer’s own stores or under franchising arrangements. This retail format is used mostly by well established fashion brands and command 14.6% of the UK market share (British Fashion Council, 2018). Thirdly, there are supermarkets, which are favored by fashion retailers because of their large footprints. About 20% of fashion merchandize in the UK are sold through supermarkets.Nevertheless, the huge access to the internet and smartphones has made e-retailing a major force in the retail fashion industry. Currently, 17% of clothing retailing in the UK is done online, with most dominant players being,, and By 2022, 35% of clothing sales in the UK will be done online (Jackson & Shaw, 2016).

Current Customer and Retail Environments

In the UK retail fashion industry, customers are interested in value for money, convenience, need, quality, and pricing. For buying and merchandizing teams, the main challenge is to come up with pricing and quality assurance mechanisms that would enable customers to justify their purchases in the face of limited and discretionary spending (McCormick, et al., 2014). The customer environment in the UK fashion industry is also need and convenience-based. Merchandizing teams, in this case, are faced with the challenge of identifying specific needs for each customer segment, including the preferred retailing format.


The retail environment in the UK fashion industry is undergoing major macro changes that need to be addressed. First, Brexit has so far had significant impact on the nation’s retail environment. Following the Brexit vote, the value of Sterling Pound has weakened and the cost of sourcing from outside the country has been high for retailers (Seidler, 2018). Again, a no-deal Brexit would mean that shoppers will be burdened by high prices of fashion goods. In the face of the Brexit challenge, merchandizers would be forced to focus on wants-driven fashion and cut investments in luxury fashion


            In the UK, retail fashion industry plays an important role in enhancing the nation’s economic and social wellbeing. It is estimated that fashion industry generates 6% of the UK’s annual GDP (Fashion United, 2018). Fashion retailers compete with one another by offering fashion products in varied sub-industries: from menswear and general clothing to footwear. These retailers have been keen on sustaining profitable business operations in the face of myriad of challenges: high cost of outsourcing following Brexit vote, inflation and weakening of sterling pound, and tight consumer spending due to limited disposable income (Jackson & Shaw, 2016).


British Fashion Council (2018). The Value of the UK Fashion Industry. London: Oxford University Press.

Fashion United (2018). UK Fashion Industry Statistics.

Hallberg, A, (2017). Fashion Retailing in the United Kingdom: How to Succeed as a Swedish Fashion Brand in the UK, Business Sweden, Vol. 3, November, 2017.

Jackson, T., & Shaw, D. (2016). Mastering fashion marketing. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

McCormick, H., Cartwright, J., Perry, P., Barnes, L., Lynch, S., & Ball, G. (2014). Fashion retailing – past, present and future. Textile Progress, 46(3), 227–321. 

PR Newswire (2017). The UK Clothing Marker 2017-2022.

Seidler, V. J. (2018). Making sense of Brexit: Democracy, Europe and uncertain futures. Bristol, UK: Chicago, IL: Policy Press.

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