Franchise Spotlight: Clothing & Accessories

There are few larger, more eclectic markets than fashion. A clothing or accessories franchise can liberate you from the pressure of keeping track of fickle fashion trends.

First, a statement of the obvious: virtually everyone (more or less) wears clothes every single day.

Exposed to all manner of stresses and strains, they soon need replacing too. Plus, the average wardrobe houses numerous styles for a range of occasions and weather conditions and is refreshed with the changing seasons, trends and sometimes - just because.

There are so many categories: t-shirts, jeans, chinos, dresses, shirts, shorts, skirts, sportswear... the list goes on.

Whether catering to atypical body shapes, specialising in footwear, womenswear or children’s clothing, there are countless niches too.

Sector overview

  • Statista projected a UK market value of £54 billion in 2018, with annual expenditure reaching $57.8bn in 2017.
  • Women spend £7bn a year on clothes and shoes – four times as much as men.
  • Fashion is the most popular e-commerce category, although offline purchases are predicted to still account for 2% of sales by 2020.
  • Niche markets like plus size clothing generated £18.7m of sales in 2016 – and that figure is growing fast.

When you think of clothing franchises, you might imagine a high street store with racks of clothes, fitting rooms and shop assistants on hand.

But beyond bricks and mortar retailers there’s also e-commerce. Already the most popular online shopping category, the online fashion market accounts for 20% of clothing sales.

But speaking to the FT, Nick Carroll, Senior Retail Analyst at Mintel, predicted that UK online clothing sales would “plateau” at 25%, mirroring Germany’s more mature online clothing market. Ultimately, e-commerce players cannot recreate the experience of physically touching and trying on clothes.

Then, there are tailoring and alterations franchises, which thrive because standard European sizes fall short of the optimum fit for most people.

Clothing retailers can specialise in niches like:

  • Budget, ‘Primark’ prices all the way up to the designer/premium end
  • Womenswear, menswear or childrenswear
  • Suits/formalwear
  • Sports/leisurewear
  • Footwear
  • Jewellery and other accessories
  • Plus size
  • Free-trade or environmentally friendly
  • Fancy dress

The luxury end of the accessories market benefits from the UK’s success in attracting large numbers of affluent, middle class and high-net worth individuals from around the world – particularly to London and the southeast.

Is a clothing and accessories franchise for me?

Whether a clothing franchise suits you depends on the franchise system in question.

Naturally, a keen interest in apparel will generally stand you in good stead. That said, as a franchisee you’ll likely have little to no control over product lines, so you probably won’t need extensive expertise in the fashion market and retail procurement.

You must be prepared to follow the franchisor’s proven business model and surrender control of things like branding, marketing or choosing point-of-sale systems to head office.

If you’re running a clothing outlet, then general retail skills – like customer service, recruitment and shop floor management – are highly useful.

Tailoring franchises value exemplary customer service and the art of tailoring executed to a consistently high standard. And yet experience in tailoring isn’t usually a must, with training provided in this and every other aspect of the business.

You’ll need a sizeable budget for retail apparel franchises. They’re not among the cheapest to buy on account of needing premises in a high-footfall location, a substantial volume of stock and some staff.

However, a franchisor often has the financial muscle to give you access to lower wholesale prices and a better location than if you were buying an independent business.

The structure of clothing franchises

Again, the business model varies depending on the sector. If you’re interested in retail it’s worth asking the franchisor what support they provide in finding you premises and optimising your store layout, plus what point of sale and inventory management systems you’ll be using.

It takes considerable vigilance in keeping abreast of fickle fashion trends to keep stock on trend, in season and priced appropriately. The franchisor, which invariably controls product lines and prices, can largely liberate you from such onerous responsibilities.

When conducting due diligence on a franchise that’s piqued your interest, the franchisor’s success in adapting to fast-changing fashion should be among your research priorities.

Consumer tastes are just as volatile in the accessories segment, as Tamara Sender, senior consumer analyst at Mintel, has explained:

“While women aged 16-24 are the main fashion accessories buyers, they show little brand loyalty [...] retailers and brands need to focus more on appealing to them with trend-led, frequently updated accessories.”



Jo Thornley

About the author

Jo joined Dynamis in 2005 to co-ordinate PR and communications and produce editorial across all business brands. She earned her spurs managing the communications strategy and now creates and develops partnerships between BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com and likeminded companies.

@BusinessMaiden