“Clothing, footwear and accessories is among the sectors being hit the hardest by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic across Europe, and we expect the leading five economies to experience drops in retail specialists’ sales of between 20% and 32% in 2020. Specialist retailers continue to lose share of spending in the category due to strong competition from online pureplayers and other non-specialists. However, we continue to see changes in consumer behaviour due to the pandemic, creating opportunities for retailers to establish a stronger online presence to capitalise on the substantial rise in online demand.”
– Armando Falcao, European Retail Analyst

Products covered in this Report

The market size for clothing comprises men’s, women’s and children’s clothes through all retail outlets. It includes outerwear, underwear and fashion accessories, but excludes footwear and jewellery.

This report includes two streams of data relating to the clothing market: consumer spending and retail sales by clothing specialists.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the clothing retail sector

  • How behaviours of clothes shoppers have changed since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak

  • The main channels used to purchase clothes and how this is evolving

  • How specialists are performing compared to non-specialists

  • The role of online and the emergence of online-only specialists.

Country and company coverage

We cover the top five economies in detail in the individual country chapters of this report, and in the Executive Summary – Europe – The Market section we also provide data on up to 33 European economies. More details of retailing in these smaller markets, plus Russia and Turkey, can be found in Mintel’s European Retail Handbook – September 2020. Single country reports on clothing retailing are also available for the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Clothing specialists are the focus of our report and they remain the dominant channel for clothing spending in the markets across Europe. Nevertheless, the scenario has changed considerably and specialists continue to lose share of the market, sometimes to non-specialists (such as the supermarkets in the UK) and sometimes to online retailers. On top of that, clothing has been one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

It is our normal practice to follow the classifications used by the national statistics offices, but in clothing that needs to be widened. Online retailers, such as ASOS or Zalando, are treated as “non-store retailers” in the national statistics, whereas we feel that they are actually clothing specialists and the distinction between them and store-based retailers is to a considerable extent artificial. In this report we have tried, where possible, to reflect the actual competitive situation.

Consumer research coverage

Mintel commissioned consumer research in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. We asked 2,000 internet users aged 16+ in the UK and Germany, and 1,000 in each of the other countries about:

  • Participation in online and in-store shopping for clothing in the last 12 months

  • The retailers used for clothing shopping in the last 12 months

  • Responses to a series of attitudinal and behavioural statements relating to shopping for clothing in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic.

Additionally, the UK and the German reports include further consumer research with deeper insights, for which we asked shoppers about changes in their usual shopping behaviour as a result of the pandemic, as well as particular features/factors considered most important by them when choosing a clothing retailer.

Responses to these surveys reflect the opinion of internet users. While internet usage is high in the UK, France and Germany, it is less so in Spain and Italy. Eurostat records the following household penetration levels for broadband internet in 2019: UK 96%, Germany 94%, Spain 91%, France 83% and Italy 84%; all seeing an increase in broadband penetration over 2018.

Where internet usage is lower, the online population is less representative of the general population. Although Spain and Italy are catching up, this still means that, for example, the proportion of respondents buying online may not so clearly reflect the proportion buying online among the total population. Nevertheless, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of online shopping is rising even in countries like Italy, which are not historically known for having a strong ecommerce channel.

Note that for some survey results we provide netted totals of answers to two or more options. A netted total will often equal less than the sum of the parts being netted, due to overlaps in respondents selecting different options.


Retail sector definitions

In our data on sector sales and forecasts and in our coverage of leading retailers within each market, this report concentrates on clothing specialists, as defined below and used by national statistics offices across Europe. Examples of specialists are Grupo Inditex, H&M and Next.

The definition of clothing specialists in European countries is that used for the NACE category 47.71: Retail sale of clothing in specialised stores, including fur and accessories such as ties, braces, gloves etc.

Non-specialist retailers include:

  • Department/variety stores

  • Discount stores

  • Food retailers

  • Sports goods specialists

  • Market stalls and bazaars

  • Second-hand/charity shops

  • Catalogue operators

  • Online-only operators.

In the UK and Spain we include M&S and Dunnes Stores within our definition of clothing specialists. Despite both offering a wide array of other products including food and homewares, the scale of their clothing operations in each country is such that we have felt it necessary to include both as clothing specialists. We think that both are classified as clothing specialists in the national statistical data.

Consumer spending definitions

We use the following COICOP (Classification of Individual Consumption by Purpose) categories for consumer spending data.

COICOP Category
3.1 Clothing
3.11 Clothing materials
3.12 Garments
3.13 Other articles of clothing and clothing accessories
3.14 Cleaning, repair and hire of clothing

Footwear spending is also provided for most countries, but this is not the focus of this report.

Financial definitions

All retailers’ sales figures are quoted excluding VAT (sales tax), unless specifically stated otherwise.

In our European reports, all retail sector sales are quoted excluding VAT, unless specifically stated otherwise. In our UK report, retail sales data includes VAT.

Consumer spending data is quoted including VAT, unless specifically stated otherwise.

Operating profit is trading profit after normal operating costs and depreciation, but before interest, goodwill amortisation and exceptional items.

Pre-tax profit is calculated after all costs, including exceptional items, interest, and non-cash charges such as amortisation, but before tax.

Note that there can be a number of reasons why tables do not sum exactly:

  • Rounding errors

  • Currency conversions if original data for different subsidiaries was in different currencies (companies often provide information in local currencies)

  • VAT (sales tax) – if original data was provided gross (including sales tax), we have extracted VAT at the relevant rates for countries concerned and at the estimated appropriate rates depending on product categories sold

  • Information on all subsidiaries is not always available. As a result in some cases we have an entry for the parent company, and subsidiary information on only one part of the business.


Conversion from local currencies to euros is carried out at the average rate ruling during the year.

Rates against the Euro for Eurozone countries have now been fixed since 1999 and all accounts in Eurozone countries are now published in euros.

Sales tax rates

All European countries levy sales tax using the value added method.

Figure 1: VAT rates around Europe, 2015-20
Jan-15 Jan-16 Jan-17 Jan-18 Jan-19 Jan-20
% % % % % %
Austria 20 20 20 20 20 20
Belgium 21 21 21 21 21 21
Bulgaria 20 20 20 20 20 20
Czechia 21 21 21 21 21 21
Denmark 25 25 25 25 25 25
Estonia 20 20 20 20 20 20
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CAGR Compound Annual Growth Rate
COICOP Classification of Individual Consumption According to Purpose
CPI Consumer Prices Index
DACH Germany, Austria, Switzerland region
e Mintel Estimate
f Mintel Forecast
GDP Gross Domestic Product
JV Joint Venture
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