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An investigation into the UK clothing sector

for men’s knitwear

This dissertation is submitted in the partial fulfilment of the

requirement of the MA Fashion Marketing and Communication
programme 2008-2009


Mr. Ojas D. Mogrey


Under the supervision of

Dr. Alistair Knox

School of Art & Design

Nottingham Trent University

I certify that this thesis does not, to the best of my knowledge and belief:

(i) Incorporate without acknowledgement any material previously submitted for a

degree or diploma in any institution of higher education;

(ii) Contain any material previously published or written by another person except
where due reference is made in the text; or

(iii) Contain any defamatory material.



I avail this opportunity to express my deep and sincere gratitude to my

supervisor Dr. Alistair Knox, firstly for giving me the opportunity to work
under his guidance. Secondly he has been supportive since the day I started
the project work. He gave me the freedom I needed to progress and finally
for showing me different ways to approach a research problem and
accomplish my goal, and encouraging me during the most difficult times
while writing the dissertation.

Learning is an infinite aspect of knowledge. This journey of learning

becomes more valuable with experienced travellers of the knowledge world;
their motivation and guidance leads us to our destination.

I am extremely honoured for the opportunity bestowed upon me to work

under the guidance of Ms. Yvonne Trew who’s inspiring, scholastic
guidance, helpful criticism and abiding interest has helped me a lot. I
express my sincere gratitude to all those who has participated in primary
research and have given their genuine feedback. I sincerely appreciate Miss.
Roohi and Miss. Milisha for their constant moral support during my stay in
the UK.

Last but not at the least I would like to thank my parents for their constant
encouragement and full support.

Ojas D. Mogrey

Fashion Marketing & Communication


This research report particularly focuses on the men’s knitwear market

in the UK clothing sector. It gives an overview of the market and
elaborates whether it is a growing or a declining segment.

The real inspiration came from the geographical location of

‘Nottingham’ on the UK map. Not only general clothing production was
dominant occupation in this part of UK but especially people here were
engaged in ‘knitwear’ business. The thought process and curiosity was
coupled with my past work experience in menswear export company,
this instigated me to follow a line of investigation on this clothing
sector of men's knitwear.

After substantial background reading on the topic, this project was

broadly researched from four different angles i.e. technological
improvement in production, suppliers/manufacturer’s view (Domestic
and International), retailers perception and consumer behaviour. Data
was gathered from observation and interviews as tools of primary
research. Visits to few knitwear production houses in England have
also given a good insight on existing production practices.

Based on primary research, it reflects that market is not growing much

because of the current economic downturn but certainly has good
scope in the future, as male consumers are willing to spend on good
quality knitwear. Secondary data also explains that market for men’s
knitwear in terms of production and retail is going down.

There is still further scope in this research process with specific set of
objectives which may lead to a concrete conclusion.


 Chapter one – Introduction

 Background (02)
 Project Aim and purpose of study (04)
 Beneficiaries (04)
 Research Objectives and (05)
Related Research Questions

 Chapter two – Research methodology

 Research Validity and Strategy (07)
 Literature Review (09)
 Interviews (11)
 Observational Research (13)
 Technical Visits (14)
 Challenges in Conducting Primary Research (15)

 Chapter three – Knitwear market analysis in UK

 Overview of Menswear Market in the UK (17)
 Overview of Knitwear Market within Menswear (21)
 Key Findings of the Market (23)
 Newsroom (24)

 Chapter four – Technology and manufacturing

 Latest Improvements in Industrial Knitting (26)
 Process of Manufacturing Knitwear in UK (31)
 Newsroom (35)

 Chapter five – The Consumer
 Consumer market segmentation (37)
 Male Buying Behaviour (42)
 Loyalty Drivers (44)
 Newsroom (46)

 Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier brands

 High Street Fashion Multiples (49)
v/s Independent Brands
 Issues for Fashion Multiples and Independents (53)
 Newsroom (57)

 Chapter seven – Supply chain in knitwear industry

 Overseas Knitwear Supply to the UK Market – (59)
Process in Brief

 Conclusion (63)
 References (66)
 Bibliography (70)
 Appendices A (73)
 Appendices B (76)
 Appendices C (79)
 Appendices D (81)

List of figures & Images


Chapter two

Figure: 1 – Research objectives – strategy (07)

Figure: 2 – Primary research strategy on manufacturing front (12)

Figure: 3 – Primary research strategy on retailing front (12)

Chapter three

Figure: 4 – Trends in menswear sales (17)

Figure: 5 – Menswear market positioning in the UK clothing retail (18)

Figure: 6 – Trends in the UK’s clothing production (19)

Figure: 7 – Structure of men’s knitwear market (22)

Figure: 8 – Stages in knitwear production (31)

Figure: 9 – Age wise male population in the UK (38)

Figure: 10 – Age wise earnings in the UK (39)

Figure: 11 – Distribution of regional earnings (41)

Chapter six

Figure: 12 – Issues for fashion multiple (53)

Chapter seven

Figure: 13 – Process of overseas supply chain (60)


Chapter four

Image: 1 – Garment panels for seamless knitwear (27)

Image: 2 – Example of seamless technology (28)

Image: 3 – Whole garment knitting (29)

List of Tables

Chapter Six

Table: 1 - Price comparison between M&S and Independents (50)

Table: 2 – Price comparison between (50)

Jack Wills and Independents

Table: 3 - Price comparison between (51)

Austin Reed and Independents

Table: 4 - Price comparison between (51)

Ted Baker and Independents

Table: 5 - Price comparison between (51)

French Connection and Independents

Table: 6 – UK retailer’s product (men’s knitwear) analysis (55)

Table: 7 – Top knit apparel exporting countries in the world (61)

Table: 8 – Top knit apparel importing countries in the world (62)

Chapter One

Chapter one - Introduction


England is considered to be the mother land of knitting and has a solid

history which dates back to four centuries. Initially, the land was being
used for growing corn and also to provide grazing for sheep. The East
midland was the main region where this activity took pace in counties
like Nottinghamshire; Leicestershire attracted the importance because
of its availability in superior quality of fleeces (Mason, S. 2000 p.20-

In the late 18th century, framework knitting had started gaining

importance amongst the peasants staying in these areas. This was
mainly because of the advantage in production over hand knitting.
These changes led to a shift in the entire industry and transitioned
house-hold knitting to factory production. During this period, circular
knitting machines first got introduced in England and threatened the
hand frame knitting production systems. Though many companies had
significant capital invested in the frames, household knitting was still
in existence (Knitting Together, 2002).

At the end of 19th century, UK had also witnessed a good increase in

selling their technology worldwide. The entire world was a huge
market for British textile technology. Those countries who were not
manufacturing knitting machines, needles etc used to buy them from
UK and try to develop similar products for their domestic usage. The
sector also employed more than 9000 people just across East
midlands. Later this region automatically became the obvious choice
for foreign investors as well. Overseas competition forced the UK
knitwear industry to adopt large diameter circular frame knitting
machines to manufacture cut-and-sew garments. The main focus was
on producing Cardigans and Jumpers during this period (Knitting
Together, 2002).

With growing and better transportation facilities, manufacturers were

able to reach a larger consumer base throughout the country.
Manufacturers started giving names to their products and thus a new
tool of advertising emerged with a concept called as “Brand” / Brand
management. Slowly UK businesses started growing but at the same
time imports were also increasing from low cost countries like India &
Bangladesh. There were strong efforts made by the UK government to
protect the market but due to high labour costs and policy of procuring
goods by retailers like Marks & Spencer directly from these low cost
producers, which led to a big decline in the textile industry in UK the
21st century (Knitting Together, 2002).

Chapter one - Introduction

However, still knitwear has been very important product for people &
for the retailers.

This report focuses on one of the most important yet neglected aspect
(in terms of academic research) of UK’s clothing sector i.e. Men’s
knitwear. The total menswear market has reached £9,135 million in
terms of spending in the year 2008. Based on UK Apparel and Textile
Confederation data (2006) and Key Note (2008) report, total market
for men’s knitwear could be around £116 million in 2008 as per the
trend of a 20% fall in production every year since 2006. Within the
scope of this dissertation, the focus will be to concentrate and
understand UK’s knitwear industry from the perspective of retailers as
well as the manufactures. It finally aims to understand the growth or
decline of an industry as a whole with the support with theoretical
information and collection of factual primary data.

Chapter one - Introduction

Project Aim and purpose of study

The primary aim of this project is to understand whether the men’s

knitwear market is growing or declining in UK.

Since the past decade the UK clothing sector has always remained
under tremendous pressure from importers of low cost clothing from
developing countries. The total UK clothing sector will continue to
expand but the sales of UK producer’s are forecasted to continue
falling because the growing demands are met by low cost importers
(Key Note, 2007).

The real purpose is to understand the reasons for growth or decline in

the men’s knitwear market based on stated objectives. This project
brief will also suggest some solutions at the end to improve the
unfavourable conditions of market.


The beneficiaries of this research project could be new knitwear brands

who want to enter in the UK market. They can predict their sales
volumes and formulate strategies by picking up some of the key
findings of this project. Further to this, apparel exporting countries will
get an overview of the market if they would like to fine-tune their
exporting activities to UK. There are latest technological improvements
in knitting/processing of knitted fabrics and garment production
mentioned in this report. This information might be useful for a layman
consumer to understand the reason of higher valuation/price of a
knitted product. Finally, overseas suppliers could benefit from this
report as they can actually understand the potential of the market for
their export penetration. It is very important for the overseas supplier
to understand saleable qualities, sizes, shades as to keep and maintain
raw material stock for the coming season. The overseas supply chain
which is mentioned in the last chapter (refer chapter seven) can help a
UK retailing company to understand and actually plan their inventory
levels, warehouse as well as at the store location. This project report
can also be used as a platform and a launch pad to carry out further
critical and a more robust research. It will be very useful also for those
who would like to take this research forward.

Chapter one - Introduction

Research Objectives and related questions

After substantial secondary research and primary research, the

following are the objectives drawn to achieve an overall aim. This
project has been looked at from four different objectives which are
important because it forms a basic structure of a niche segment of
clothing sector.

 To investigate technological improvements that affect men’s

knitwear production & quality of fabrics in the UK & Overseas

o What are the latest improvements in knitting, fabric

processing and its impact on knitwear sales?
o What is the process of manufacturing knitwear in UK?

 To understand male consumer behaviour.

o What are the broad segments of male consumers in the

o How UK men shop in the stores? What are the factors they
consider while buying clothes?
o Which are the important loyalty drivers for men?

 To give an overview of leading high street fashion multiples and

supplier brands of men’s knitwear in the UK.

o Which & what product and price ranges do high street

retailers offer?
o Which & what product and ranges do independent branded
stores offer?
o What are the key market issues for fashion multiples and

 To understand the supply chain operations in importing knitwear.

o How the product reaches from the manufacturer to the


Chapter Two

Research Methodology

Chapter two – Research Methodology

Research validity & strategy

This research aims to explore current retail and production business

practices of UK in men‟s knitwear segment. The structure of looking at
the broad perspectives into this niche segment of the UK clothing sector
is self developed and is also based on all the previous investigation into
the whole menswear category.

The strategy formulation began with the careful reading around the
topic. Keeping in mind the overall aim, a critical literature review had
been carried out from various sources like Journals, Magazines, Books,
Research papers etc. This had given a much clearer picture of the whole
market segment. Based on this overview of the market, research was
subdivided into 4 focussed objectives.

Technology & Manufacturing

Supply chain / Consumer
Overseas Supply
market Behaviour
analysis in

Retail & Supplier Brands

Figure 1: Research objectives – strategy

There are other research questions attached to this which have already
been mentioned in the previous chapter. Secondary research was
focused on these objectives. It was very important to get the
data/feedback from the market and people who are actually working in
the knitwear industry. Qualitative primary research techniques were
applied to gain first hand information.

Chapter two – Research Methodology

There are several knitwear manufacturers still into existence in different

parts of England. Initially the process asking for an appointment was to
contact them by telephone or email. A questionnaire was created in
consultation with the supervisor to get maximum output from those
meetings. In this current economic downturn and high labour cost,
knitwear production in UK seems to be going down. For this reason, it
was necessary to get feedback from a small-medium level of producers
who has been in the market for many years but has a very small set-up
and also from the producer-come- supplier of a much larger turnover.

Similarly on the knitwear retailer‟s front, semi-structured interviews

were carried out with three companies who have their own brand being
marketed and sold in their own stores. Two companies are selected
from an up-market level and one from budget market level. The
purpose of selecting these two different levels of companies was to
understand how they perform in attracting male consumers. Another
reason was understand whether it‟s only the brand name that speaks or
actual quality/speciality of the product which generates the sales.

Some of the key issues like general product choice in different age
brackets, price v/s quality factor, and choice of retailer by particular
group of men on the high street are addressed by a non-participant
observation technique. As Judith Bell (2005:184) pointed out,
observation can reveal characteristics of certain group of people.

It was also worthwhile contacting ex-colleagues who were managing

knitwear export business from supplying countries like India &
Bangladesh. Taking valuable inputs from them on the process of
importing knitwear by UK buyers was indeed proved useful. According
to TNS Global report (April, 2008), there was steep increase in the
trend of men‟s knitwear sales with 42% volume growth in the year
2007 compared to the previous year. This growth was mainly due to
sales increase in Cardigans (type of knitwear product). On top of this
the report also revealed that 3.5 million men‟s cardigans were bought in
the year 2007. The point of research on this issue was, whether it was
all manufactured in the UK or which were the top countries supplying
these products to UK retail stores.

There were two technical visits arranged with medium level (those with
less than 20 flat bed knitting machines or 5 circular machines)
manufacturers including one Leicester based apparel manufacturer in
order to understand the existence of traditional or modern production
practices in UK‟s knitting industry.

Chapter two – Research Methodology

Literature review

The initial phase of reviewing literature was started with general

reading around the topic through various Journals, Research papers &
menswear magazines. Market reports from companies like Mintel, Key
Note & Verdict were very useful in providing insight into the UK clothing
industry. UK newspapers e.g. Guardian, The Times & Financial Express
was also valuable indeed in giving the latest updates/changes in the
market. This research report discuses mainly the recent literature in
respective context.

The key information derived from below mentioned resources for

putting it into the related subject context.

Market analysis & trends

I. Market research firms (Online database) – Key Note Ltd., Verdict

Research, Mintel Intelligence
II. Academic research papers – University of Manchester,
Bournemouth University
III. UK National statistics
IV. Web sites;;

Technology and manufacturing

I.Knitting International (Magazine) – Article.

II.Textile Intelligence Magazine – Article.
III.Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management.
IV. TTIS Textile Digest – Article.
V. David Rigby Associates Management Consultants – Research
VI. Web sites –;;;;;www.emarldi;;

The consumer

I. Office for National Statistics

II. Academic research papers – Department of marketing, Loyola
University, Manchester Metropolitan University
III. Textbooks on consumer behaviour in fashion
IV. Market research firms (Online database)
V. Web sites –;

Chapter two – Research Methodology

Retail and Supplier brands

I. Market research firms (Online database) – Key Note Ltd., Verdict

Research, Mintel Intelligence
II. Textbooks on retail management, clothing retailing

Supply chain

I. Textbooks of supply chain management and Fashion marketing

II. Academic research papers

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Chapter two – Research Methodology


Interviews are particularly useful for getting the story behind a

participant‟s experiences. The interviewer can pursue in-depth
information around the topic. Interviews may be useful as follow-up to
certain respondents to questionnaires, e.g., to further investigate their
responses (McBurney, D. 2007).


During this research, there were five semi-structured interviews

conducted along with one general interview with the professor at
Nottingham Trent University. The purpose of focussing on this
qualitative research method is to get first hand information from the
various levels of professionals working in knitwear industry of the UK.
An interview was another effective way to meet my objectives like
manufacturers perception of the recent knitwear market, how different
levels of individual knitwear brands adopt their business strategy and
sense the future of this industry. Further, this method could help to
understand the increased importance of overseas imports by leading UK
high street retailers e.g. NEXT Plc, Marks & Spencer and reluctance of
their domestic buying. To do further justice to the research and to
substantiate the research findings it is pivotal to include a set of
primary research method and compare it with a set of secondary data.
This comparative process will help iron out any flaws in the primary
researched data set and plug potential error arise during analysis of
such a data set. The target of selecting professionals was also to ensure
that they give genuine information having spent at least a decade
working into the UK knitwear industry. They could talk about business
trend and could predict the market with their vast experience. It would
have been difficult through other primary research methods to
understand the working environment in the different activities of an
industry. Aspects such as office/plant location cost and availability of
labour/staff in that region was also worthwhile understanding for an
international student like us.


After careful reading on some company profiles in the knitwear

industry, following strategy had been adopted to give fair coverage to
broad levels in the market through this primary research. It was also
planned in such a way that it will cover different traditional textile
pockets of UK.

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Chapter two – Research Methodology

Manufacturer/Suppliers of knitwear
in the UK

Value-Middle Upmarket
market level level

Crystal Knitwear Crystal Martin (Knitwear)

(Mansfield, Notts) Ltd. (Ashfield, Notts)

Figure 2: Primary research strategy on manufacturing front

Individual knitwear brands in the


Value–Middle Upmarket
market level Level

Peter Gribby Ltd. Alan Paine Knitwear

(Bottesford, Notts) (Godalming, Surrey)

Figure 3: Primary research strategy on retailing front

In-depth company wise coverage of this method is written at the end of

this report i.e. in Appendices section. The objective based on consumer
behaviour has been tried to understand through observational research

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Chapter two – Research Methodology

Observational Research

Observational research is closely related to tracking and is used in

qualitative research projects. A researcher will observe consumers while
they carry out regular activities in a setting that they feel comfortable in
(Angrosino, M. 2007)


During this research, almost all the high street fashion multiples were
visited in different parts of the UK at different intervals. Along with this,
stores owned by individual knitwear brands were also covered under
this qualitative research method. The basic aim to adopt this approach
was to understand how the UK male consumer behaves when he shops
in the high street fashion multiples as well as for an individual knitwear
brand. Non-participant technique was adopted to catch natural
reaction/behaviour of consumer. This was helpful to support secondary
research findings on clothing purchased by men at different retail
stores. Further, it was also possible to compare men‟s knitwear
collection at high street fashion multiple v/s independent knitwear
brands in terms of product, quality, price and source of supply. Source
of supply could be found out from wash care label or the size label
where it is mandatory to mention country of manufacture. Aspects like
judging the product quality by touching fabric, influencing factors for
men to buy particular clothing product and choice of stores as per their
age could be studied in a better manner by doing observation.

Many premium knitwear brands are trying to sell their product by

mentioning special process name or fabric/yarn quality on swing tag.
Being a silent observer was very helpful in judging the effectiveness of
these marketing tactics in men‟s shopping decision. All these above
mentioned learning objectives wouldn‟t have been well directed with
quantitative approaches like market survey or questionnaires.


At all the time, it was pretended to be one of the potential shoppers in

the stores. The activity was carried throughout one month by initially
visiting high street stores in Nottingham and later extending it during
visit to the London & Manchester. Visits were made at different time on
the day, week to observe men in a better way while they shop. Product
quality v/s Price compared at the same market level of knitwear brands
to have clarity on retailers consumer focus.

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Chapter two – Research Methodology

Technical Visits

There were two technical visits made to the knitwear production units
based in Leicester. The purpose of these visits was to understand and
practically see how the garments are being manufactured in the UK
factories. This was also to understand how the production units are
geared up on technological front and avoids or supports labour intensive
practices. Having worked closely with the clothing factories in India, it
was possible to make comparison of production processes between
companies of similar scale and nature.

The first factory which visited in Leicester was Esprio Knitting Co.

Address – 34, Syston Street East, Leicestershire, LE1 2JW

Owner – Mr. Chales Middleton
Activity – Knitwear manufactures and wholesalers
Year of establishment –1992
No. of people working – 16
No. of sewing machines – 20
In-house fabric production or Outsourcing – Outsourcing
Supply to – Local sports clubs and school uniforms
Growth in the profits? – Very stagnant since past 3 years

The second factory which visited in Leicester was GB Fashions Ltd.

Address – 117 Doncaster Rd, Leicester

Owner – Mr. JPS Ghuman
Activity – Knitwear manufacturing
Year of establishment – 1979
No. of people working – 14
No. of sewing machines – 09
In-house fabric production or Outsourcing – Outsourcing
Supply to – Small boutiques in London & Manchester
Growth in the profits? - Very slow since last 2 years

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Chapter two – Research Methodology

Challenges in conducting Primary Research

The year long journey of primary research so far was very interesting
and well-informed but at the same time had to tackle few hurdles as
well. Following are some of the best examples of it with the detailed

o There are several Textile pockets (areas) of knitwear production

in the UK. Most of them have a long history in terms of
occupation of the people living in that area. Locating those
pockets and identifying their importance related to the project
was a bit tricky thing. Even though you can „Google‟ (search
online) these areas, it is a major task of actually finding and
locating the companies which can contribute to your research. For
example, there are many clothing factories situated in east
midlands but there was no point in approaching to the companies
whose focus is not to produce knitwear. This issue was solved
initially by consulting professionals from home country who had
visited UK earlier and traded with UK based companies. Local city
council offices and friends were also very helpful.
o After locating the area and appropriate company details, the next
difficulty was to select right person (participant in this context)
who could give correct feedback. For this reason, all
correspondence initiated towards highest authority of the
organisation in consideration of the fact that he/she had spend
considerable time period in an industry.
o Company profiles of similar nature and size were compared
through their respective web sites to save time & cost factor. As a
student it was not possible to travel long distance and spend huge
sum just to take one interview. For example, in the premium
knitwear category “Alan Paine Ltd.” (Surrey based) was chosen
over “Hawick Knitwear” to avoid travel till Scotland.
o Consumer behaviour observation is real time consuming at the
same time patience testing task. There were many new things to
observe each time when visit was conducted to the market. To
avoid these vague results, specific agenda of observation were set
related to the objective. This narrowing down approach actually
brought back focus of chosen primary research method.
o Limited contacts in an industry were not giving access to many
knitwear factories. Persistent follow-ups and contacts of fellow
student given me an opportunity to visit above mentioned

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Chapter Three

Knitwear market
analysis in UK

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

Overview of Menswear market in the UK

The menswear market includes all garments made for men and boys. It
includes both outer and under garments, but excludes infants wear,
which is defined as clothing for children under two years of age (Verdict
research, 2008).

On the retail front

Menswear market in the UK constituted for 25.7% of overall clothing

market with a total retail sales of £9,135 million at the end of the year
2008. This is a slight growth in the market as compared to the sales of
£9000 million in the year 2007. The reason for this slow growth is
„recession‟ in the market. In spite of this fact, menswear market has
observed a constant growth since last five years (Verdict research,
9200 9000

Value 8600 8399



2004 2005 2006 2007 e2008

Figure 4: Trends in Menswear sales (value in £m)

Source: Verdict Research

The above figure clearly indicates an increase in the menswear sales

particularly in the period between the years 2005-2007 and later a bit
slow. The above sales value is inclusive of all retail distributors like
clothing specialists, grocers, departmental stores etc. According to
Verdict Research, there is a maximum share of clothing specialists into
the market with Primark leading the way in this category. However this
report also indicates that River Island is leading in terms profitability.
Based on personal observation, high street retailers are trying to add
„value‟ to the product by improving fabric quality, usage eco-friendly
yarns, packing with accessory (e.g. shirt with a tie or jeans with a jute
belt). Retailers are also improvising on the visual merchandising part to

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

attract more number of people to visit their stores. Retailers like Gap;
Next & H&M displays „how‟ to wear a garment on mannequins. Some
retailers are trying to stretch their product prices upwards to
differentiate themselves from middle & value market players.

There is a typical broader segmentation into the menswear market

which is explained along with the names of retailers as mentioned
below. Positioning of particular set of retailers has been evaluated
based on industry reports (Verdict research, 2008) and personal
observation on price points of the products offered in their stores.

Positioning of
Menswear market
in the UK

Upmarket/Hi value Mid-market retailers Value/Budget

retailers retailers

Jack Wills H&M Primark

John Lewis River Island George
Austin Reed TopMan Officer‟s club
Ted Baker etc. T.K.Maxx etc. Tesco etc.

Figure 5: Menswear market positioning in UK clothing retail

Competition amongst all menswear retailers has been observed

phenomenal but as far as the market share is concerned, Primark has
the maximum share followed by TK Maxx & George (ASDA) by year
ending 2008. This is the clear impact of economic downturn all over the
UK as large number of customers prefers to buy their clothes from
value retailers over upmarket stores. On top of this lack of regular new
trends as compared to womenswear market, makes it difficult for
retailers to persuade men to upgrade their wardrobe on regular basis
(Verdict research, 2008).

On the other hand, menswear production in the UK is another and

important aspect of the market in view of whole clothing market. Many
facts and figures have been extracted from secondary research
resources and personal meetings with the professionals in an industry.

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

On the production front

The clothing production industry has changed in the UK, with a global
sourcing from low wage countries reducing domestic cost of production
(Key note, 2009).

The textile industry in the UK and comparable high cost

economies has been in the long term decline for many
years now (Bergvall-Forsberg, 2007).

Clothing manufacturing is scattered all across UK but focussed mainly

into regions like East Midlands, Scotland (for knitwear) and Northern
Ireland. This also implies to Menswear manufacturing as it is a major
big sector into UK clothing retail. Following are the main categories for

o Knitwear
o Shirts
o Tailored outerwear
o Hosiery
o Underwear

The below mentioned figure explains an estimated trend in UK‟s clothing

manufacture till end of the year 2007. This includes menswear as well
as womenswear. Values are taken at manufacturers selling prices.



1500 Knitwear
Value Outerwear
1000 Workwear
2003 2004 2005 2006 e2007

Figure 6: Trends in UK’s Clothing production (value in £m)

Source: Key Note Ltd.

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

As we can observe there is a clear decline in the clothing production

over the five years till end of 2007. The import penetration in the
market is accounted for almost more than 90% resulting domestic
production valued at merely around £900 million in the year end 2007
for menswear. There are many countries who has been benefited from
this rising imports of the UK depending on the type of garment. China
has a maximum share of exporting all the types of menswear in the UK
followed by Bangladesh for shirts, Turkey & India of underwear and
knitwear and Italy for formal wear (Key Note, 2008).

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

Overview of knitwear market within menswear

„Knitwear‟ refers to any fabric which knitted (as opposed to woven) with
particular thickness of the yarn and being converted into garment
(McDonnell, S. 2008).

Market in brief

As per the latest data available, the total (including men‟s & women‟s)
UK market for knitwear accounted for £290 million at the end of year
2007. According to National Statistics, the women‟s clothing share in
the market by market value is more than 52.1%. Considering this fact,
the men‟s knitwear market could be around £145 million at the end of
year 2007. This is further decline as compared to year 2006 where the
UK market accounted for £181 million (Key Note, 2009).

Knitwear manufacturing was supported by domestic retail giants like

Marks & Spencer Plc and Debenhams but inexorable rise of import
penetration and very high domestic production cost attracted these
retailers to source from other countries. On the other side of high street
retailers there are some UK based independent knitwear brands who
are trying to remain in the market with their own production house and
stores. In this market segment, there are two broad categories. One is
upmarket level brands and other one is mid/budget market level
brands. These two categories have been differentiated as per well
informed personal observation of their brand image and product price

Male consumers in UK feel their loyalty driver lies in their first

experience of wearing/trying particular quality of product. Premium
quality jumpers, cardigans are generally purchased by 45+ age group
people who have got higher income level and also young men who have
got „classic‟ (mature) taste of knitwear fashion.

The personal observation shows that, young men prefer to buy

garments from fast fashion and value fashion multiples like Primark,
H&M etc. whereas older men prefers to stick with higher end of the
market such as Marks & Spencer, Ted Baker and similar level of
retailers. Similar buying habits also apply to premium individual
knitwear brands in the UK such as Pringle of Scotland, Lyle & Scott,
Fred Perry. These individual knitwear brands are directly competing
with the high street retail brands at different levels in the market. After
taking interviews with the knitwear producers in the industry, their
general opinion about the UK market is not very encouraging for them.

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

Manufacturers are finding it difficult to match the prices offered to the

retail sector by developing countries in current situation. They do have
export market open for them but again there, they fail to produce
required volumes as compared to developing nations where garments
are being manufactured on a very large scale (Key Note, 2008).

Basic structure of men’s knitwear retail Industry

UK Retail
Market for
Men‟s Knitwear

High Street Independent

Fashion Retailers

Upmarket level Mid-Budget Upmarket level Mid-Budget

stores market level stores market level
stores stores

Marks & Primark, Pringle, Peter Gribby,

Spencer, H&M, Lyle & Scott, Winter Beck,
Arcadia etc. George (ASDA) Glenmuir, John Rowlinson
etc. Smedley etc. etc.

Figure 7: Structure of UK’s men’s knitwear market

Apart from above mentioned knitwear brands, there are many domestic
brands that were or still having their own production set-up here in the
UK. There is a good quality of knitwear also being produced in the
borders of Scotland.

Knitwear is part of Scotland‟s heritage, and two centuries

of tradition have been combined with state of
the art manufacturing facilities to ensure that constant
innovation is a byword of the Scottish Textiles knitwear
industry (Scottish development international, 2008).

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK

The industry is scattered all over Scotland covering many small/big

production units in north & south highlands, Tayside, northern isles &
borders. The big players in this region are Hawick Cashmere, Begg of
Scotland, Lyle & Scott, Harley of Scotland.

Key findings of the market

It is observed from above mentioned data and information that

knitwear is an important part of menswear clothing sector. There is
clear indication of growth into menswear retail but market for knitwear
is going down. The growth in menswear is at slow pace since past two
to three years because of the economic downturn in the UK. On the
other hand, production sector is witnessing a clear decline. Production is
becoming unaffordable for UK manufacturers because of high labour
cost and direct competition from low cost countries. Premium knitwear
brands are still trying to remain focussed with their target customers
with few of them still are manufacturing within UK. Most of these
premium brands have been originated from Scotland. Independent
retailers are competing with big fashion multiples all over the UK at
different levels of the market.

This increased competition extends to have product uniqueness over

the competitor in the market. At the same time it also benefits
consumer to try or buy better quality product with a „feel good‟ factor.
Improvements in technology and manufacturing could give a different
image or outlook for a clothing product. Researcher has tried to further
investigate into this area of clothing production in the next chapter.

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Chapter three – Knitwear Market Analysis in UK


UK Fashion Exports winners announced

Knitwear brand John Smedley took the Gold Award at the UK

Fashion Exports Awards, which celebrated excellence in selling
overseas, yesterday. John Smedley, which was founded 225 years
ago, also picked up the Heritage brand award from presenter
Joanna Lumley and HRH the Princess Royal. John Smedley
managing director Andrew Caughey said: “We all recognize the
challenges of the current global economy so to win the Gold
Export Award during this year is a tremendous acknowledgment
of the John Smedley sales team and our offshore agents and
distributors. Their focused sales approach over recent years has
helped strengthen the positioning of the John Smedley brand
internationally and achieve growth in new markets which is
helping us through these uncertain times” (Drapers, 2009).

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Chapter Four

Technology and

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Latest improvements in Industrial Knitting

There has been a great change in knitting technology over the years all
over the world including UK. Improvement in communication along with
usage of computers has enabled to exchange the knowledge in
technology. United Kingdom had begun to witness it’s improvement in
technology after the war years (1914-1918). The 50’s & 60’s were very
much about technological developments in knitting (Power, J. 2007).
In the 1970’s, UK saw the introduction of computer-aided design (CAD)
and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). This made easier for
manufacturers just to create product design on computer and transfer it
on to machines. During the 1990’s and later, majority of the production
had moved outside UK and low cost producing countries gained a
momentum of entering into mass market production resulting further
advancement of technology in those countries. It would be interesting
to understand the latest developments in knitting technology impacting
on to the UK clothing sector men’s knitwear.

Circular knitting

A circular knitting machine has a rotatable needle cylinder, a supporting

plate rotating synchronously with the needle cylinder, and a product
drawing off and winding device (Striker et al, 2008).

The search for eliminating the side crease on the tubular knitted fabric
started almost ten years ago. There was an introduction of synthetic
man-made yarns into the large diameter circular knitting machine
sector eventually brought about the development of open width knitting

The world leaders in circular knitting machines Mayer & Cie (Germany),
have introduced high speed open-width knitting machine. The main
feature of this machine is their frame capable of speeds of 40 rpm
(revolutions per minute) in continues operation in comparison with the
conventional speed of 32 rpm of other existing branded machines. This
innovation allows increasing almost 25% of the production. Further, it
gives a fabric take-down in an open width form which avoids crease
marks in tubular way of take-down of the knitted fabric (Anon, 2009).

The total number of circular knitting machines imported by the UK was

54,999 units in the year 2007 including imports (1,104 units) from
European Union member countries. On the other side total export by
the UK was mere 507 units (Office for National statistics, 2007). This
import-export situation clearly shows that there is hardly any

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

manufacturing take place for knitting machines in the UK and EU as

compared to rest of the world.

Flat knitting

Gauge refers to number of stitches per inch (Smith, M. 2001). Fabric

utilised for sweaters and jumpers are knitted on lower gauge flat
knitting machines. Japanese based Shima Seiki Mfg.,Ltd. have recently
invented SSG series knitting machine with a ‘Digital Stitch Device’. This
unique feature has Digital Stitch Control System and can be
programmed with the desired loop length after which it automatically
monitors the yarn consumption while knitting the fabric. This new
feature provides a quality control which is essential of shaping and
production of the knitwear (Anon, 2009).

Seamless technology

This is probably the finest example of improvement in knit garment

production technology. This technology actually reduces cut and sew
procedure of making seams in the garment production. There are
machines (produced by Shima Seiki and Santoni), where it produces
shaped panels of sleeve, back and front body which then can be sewn
together along with the collar or pocket to produce a whole garment
(Anderson, K. 2008).

Image 1: Garment panels for seamless knitwear

Source: Shima Seiki Ltd.

In the UK, premium knitwear brands like John Smedley, Glenbrae of

Derbyshire, and Britannia Knitwear of Manchester are using this
technology to manufacture such garments.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Further, some of the UK Fashion designers like Alexander McQueen,

Vivienne Westwood have also adopted this technology to create their
knitwear collection (Black, S. 2007).

Image 2: The above image is an example of a garment produced on seamless


Source: LONATI group

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Whole garment knitting

This is the latest and most sophisticated technology in today’s knitting

industry. This technology has been developed by Shima Seiki, Japan.
The whole garment is being produced directly in the knitting machine.
This technology completely eliminates the cutting & sewing process. The
Computer Aided Design (CAD) is utilised to create garment patterns and
the same information is passed on electronically into the machine
(Anderson, K. 2008).

Image 3: Whole garment knitting

Source: Shima Seiki

To knit a sweater, three shaped tubes are knit simultaneously.

A front and a back needle bed are utilized to knit the tubes.
Loops are knit and transferred between the front and back beds
to create shape. Three yarn carriers are used—one to knit
the right sleeve, the second to knit the body and the third to
knit the left sleeve. Once knitting reaches the under arm area,
the tubes are combined. The two carriers knitting the sleeves
are taken out of the knitting zone. The carrier knitting the
body begins to knit one tube—combining the three tubes.
Garment details can be added during the knitting process.
(Anderson, K. 2008)

The above paragraph by Anderson, K. explains the process of whole

garment knitting.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Knitted fabric finishes

Enormous technological changes have been taking place in knitted

fabric finishes. These changes not only add value to the garment but
give more flexibility and comfort to the wearer.

AEGIS Microbe Shield has invented moisture management system &

antimicrobial technology in the knitted fabric. The moisture
management fabric improves the wicking property of the fabric and
improves the drying time. It quickly wicks in all direction providing
greater surface area for rapid evaporation. Antimicrobial technology
fabric reduces odour and microbial contamination in the fabric. This
technology saves frequent laundering of the garment with less
requirement of detergent while washing hence reducing overall garment
care cost (Anon, 2009)

There are such several fabric finishes which have new functional
characteristics as well as aesthetic. This has been introduced by many
big companies like DuPont, Nano-Tex etc.

How these technological improvements have been impacted on

the UK knitwear retailing and consumers?

United Kingdom has 99.8% adult literacy (Euromonitor, 2008) as per

the current available data. Even if a common man does not understand
the textile terminology but can surely read and understands what has
been printed in a simple language on the swing tags while purchasing a
garment. Following findings has been drawn after personal observation
and speaking with some male consumers in England in the high-street
o Manufacturing productivity has gone up resulting fast turnaround
of the garment styles/lines. Retailers can meet fast fashion
knitwear product demands.
o New fabric finishes create curiosity amongst the customers to try
new product even if it is little expensive. Creates sales volume for
o There is an increased awareness in individual sizing and fitting of
the garment amongst consumers. According to Otnes, C. (2000),
patterning and colouration of the garment are also important
factor. These factors become drivers of brand loyalty for the
o Adoption and display of these new technology garments gives
distinctive characteristic to every brand in the market as well as
in the consumers mind.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Process of manufacturing knitwear in UK

After discussing and understanding the latest improvements in knitting

industry, the focus was to understand the practical step-by-step
processes in manufacturing knitwear in the UK. This understanding was
backed by special technical visits to the garment supplying factories and
also during research interview visits. The basic knitwear production
procedure remains the same but may change upon operational scale of
the company and volume of production. Change in the below mentioned
cycle is also depends on monitory investment by the company on men
and machine factors.

Companies which are vertically integrated

Vertically integrated companies are the companies which are having

their own set-up right from spinning the fiber to sewing apparels.

Choosing the
e.g. Wool/
Packing & Fibre processing

Sewing & Spinning of Yarn

Dyeing & fabric Knitting of fabric

Figure 8: Stages in knitwear production

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

STAGE 1 – Choosing the fibre

It is the first and foremost step in knitwear production process.

Normally, company does a research for the demand of a particular
variety of knitwear in the market (Jones, A. 2009). Every target season
and every market region has their own particular demands. Further,
fibre availability has also been looked after either in the domestic
market or overseas imports. For example, sometimes fibres like
cashmere are not available easily by domestic sources or they are very
expensive as compared to other countries. These types of decisions are
being taken by the production department while choosing the core fibre
for manufacturing final product.

STAGE 2 – Fibre processing

Before any fibre goes into spinning for the yarn, it goes through this
process. At this stage, fibre cleaning takes place. It also prepares to
ensure highest quality and consistency of the fibres before turning it
into the yarn. Only ‘acceptable quality level’ (AQL) fibres are being
separated by combing from the entire bale.

STAGE 3 – Spinning of yarn

After fibre processing, the clean and good quality fibres are then spun
into yarn. It is possible to give range of blends to the yarn to change
the value or quality. Generally there are two types of techniques being
used, woollen and worsted. At every sub-stage yarn quality is being
checked before it goes on to the next process which is called as

STAGE 4 – Knitting

Grey or dyed yarn is being used from the previous process and fed into
the knitting machines. The conventional way of processing is producing
front and back body panels and sleeves separately which are then sewn
together to produce a whole garment. Recently, some companies in UK
(as mentioned before in this report) have adopted seamless technology
which produces the whole garment in one piece, three dimensionally on
the knitting machine itself.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

STAGE 5 – Dyeing and fabric finishing

Grey fabric is taken from the previous department and dyed into the
dyeing vessels according to the requirement of shades. Normally, there
are different sizes of vessels available to adjust the shade lot. For
example, for making sample set of garments there is no need to dye
the fabric in bigger vessels, small dyeing vessels of 5kg or 10 kg are
also kept to meet that amount of requirement. Later, finishing is done
to the fabric to give required hand-feel, performance characteristics. It
is also very crucial process as end customer can feel it directly and
make his buying decision.

STAGE 6 – Sewing & garment finishing

Processed knitted fabric gets enter into this stage and panels are being
sewn together as per the size specification. Every company has
different system of assembling a product. For example, there is single-
hand system where one operator is responsible for sewing an entire
garment but on the other hand there is progressive bungle system one
operator is responsible for either one or two construction steps on each
garment in the bundle (e.g. couple of dozen garments). After this step,
required accessories like wash care label, swing tickets, hang tags etc.
are being attached to the garment. Following step is ironing of the

STAGE 7 – Packing and delivery

This is probably the last stage in vertically integrated knitwear

production unit. All the garments which are being kept ready after
ironing, straight away goes for final packing as per size, shade, quality
or done assorted as per the requirement of the store/client. Finally,
goods are being delivered to their own chain of stores or to the
customer who has given contract of that garment order.

Companies which are not vertically integrated

Those companies which do not have their own spinning, knitting and
dyeing units, together along with CMT (cut, make & trim) activity are
considered as non vertical integrated units. Most of the production
companies in UK imports yarn or fabric from overseas to produce
garments. Small scale producers procure it locally through importing
agents or domestic stock suppliers.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing

Once the goods are packed and get delivered into the stores, then
actually it starts the real test of the product in terms of saleability. The
end consumer plays a crucial role in the market place for success or
failure of the product. Some products do fail to generate volume sales
into the market in spite of having used latest technology or branding.
Therefore, the next obvious objective comes as to understand ‘The
Consumer’ in the market. In this dissertation, the focus is given only on
male consumers and their clothing shopping behaviour.

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Chapter four – Technology and Manufacturing


End of an Era – Pringle set to close Hawick knitwear


Management announced on Monday that it expected to close its

Hawick factory which employs 110 staff, whilst retaining 30 jobs
to staff their head office, finance and customer service
departments. Pringle, which has manufactured knitwear in Hawick
for almost 200 years, employed well over 1000 people as recently
as the 1980s when the company knitted around 50,000 pieces of
fully fashioned knitwear per week. Its woollen sweaters favoured
by generations of golfers, as well as celebrities are known
throughout the world. The job losses come after Pringle reported
a loss of £9 million last year and the owners, SC Fang & Sons,
embarked on a global restructuring programme. Pringle knitwear
is also manufactured in Northern Italy were costs are said to be
up to 30% lower. After a full review by Fang, production is
expected to leave Scotland for Italy. It is thought that part of
reason for ceasing manufacturing in Hawick is the high cost of
running the factory. However, since buying the company for £6
million in 2000, SC Fang has invested £45 million mainly on
rebranding. Traditional knitwear, which is what Pringle is known
for, now accounts for just 15 per cent of Pringle’s sales. Pringle
was an institution in Hawick and at one time nearly every family
in the town would have had a family member working in one of
the company’s mills. Even today many Hawick individuals still
working in Scottish knitwear firms and indeed firms around the
world have some connection or history of employment with
Pringle (Anon, 2008).

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Chapter Five

The Consumer

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Chapter five – The Consumer

Consumer market segmentation

Consumer segmentation is a process of separating people into

different groups that have some similar features, resulting in the
ability to be targeted and studied (Soloman and Rabolt, 2009).


„Market segmentation‟ is a strategy used by companies to cater

specific demands of a niche market. In this dissertation, the focus is
on United Kingdom as a market and men‟s knitwear as a product. It
is obvious to have a vast set of male consumers in the country in
terms of age, socio-economic, psychological factors. Thus, it makes
sense for the company or brand to make segmentation and then
target that audience. The choices or needs of one particular group of
consumer don‟t vary too much in one market segment (Mercer, D.
2005). This helps the company to position their product accordingly.

As per personal research, male consumers in UK change their

shopping preferences and buying patterns over the time. For
example, men prefer to buy sweater or jumper with heavier fabric in
autumn-winter season whereas they like to buy little light weight
knitwear in spring-summer season. Normally they would not invest
money in buying classic knitwear in summer rather than to wait for
next season‟s fresh collection to be available into the stores.
Segmentation allows companies to understand these changes and
encourages developing their product at different time intervals to
satisfy the need of particular set of consumer.

There are other important factors also such as innovation

stimulation, identification of growth opportunities and rise in
profitability (Blythe, J. 2008).

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Chapter five – The Consumer

United Kingdom – Age wise segmentation

65 +


Age 35-44



0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000

Population ('000)

Figure 9: Age wise male population in the UK

Source: Office for National Statistics

The above figures have been taken from an official UK national

statistics website and are estimated figures of mid year 2007. As we
can clearly observe from the data that population amongst age group
between 45-65 years old, is the maximum.

This largest group of population gives the greatest contribution to

transactions in the UK‟s clothing retail. The consumers who belongs
to this age bracket are likely to have good disposable income and
likely to be loyal to the brand (WGSN, 2008).

The second largest age bracket is men between 35-44 years. Men in
this age bracket are generally price conscious but shopping
experience along with family is the key factor which can be observed
quite often (WGSN, 200).

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Chapter five – The Consumer

The least populated age bracket is 16-25 years old men. This is the
most favourable consumers for retailers in the UK as „price‟
importance is very low for this group. Visual impact of the store and
fast fashion products attracts them the most (WGSN, 2008).

United Kingdom – Age wise earning segmentation

As per the gender focus data of UK National Statistics, median

income of men was higher than the women in the year 2008.

Men average earnings were £484.0 per week as compared to

women‟s earning of £299.0 per week. The average earnings per hour
for men were £12.50 as compared with women‟s earning of £10.92
per hour (National statistics, 2008).

It is very important for any knitwear retailer or the manufacturing

company to decide and target general age bracket of male
consumers (Jones, A. 2009). The designs, fabric and the fit is been
created according to an average taste of that particular age group
consumers. An important factor of „price‟ has also being quoted for
the product keeping in mind of their earnings capacity perception.
Therefore, it could be interesting to understand per week earnings of
men in the UK from various age categories.

18-21 280.1

22-29 416.4

30-39 565.7
40-49 598

50-59 563.7

60+ 462.1

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700

£ per week

Figure 10: Age wise per week earnings in the UK

Source: Office for National Statistics

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Chapter five – The Consumer

The above data (Figure 10) clearly indicates that men between the
age brackets of 40 to 49 are the highest per week earners in the UK.
Majority of the premium men‟s knitwear brands in UK have this age
bracket as their target audience as they seem to afford exclusive
knitwear range, e.g. pure cashmere jumper. This finding on the
market is also backed by the primary research (Interview) activity
with the retailers and manufacturers. Alan Paine knitwear Ltd. of
surrey is a premium men‟s knitwear brand in the UK. ‘We have a
main target age bracket of men in between 45-65 years old (Beattie,
C. 2009)’. This interviewer was also emphasising on targeting this
age bracket for men‟s knitwear products because of the fact of their
earning potential. Peter Gribby Ltd. is a Nottingham based budget
level knitwear brand in the UK. The meeting was arranged with the
managing director of the company to get their and an overall
feedback about the current market in the UK. The interviewer had
expressed that, ‘our both the labels are targeted towards 45+ age
bracket (Gribby, D. 2009). Medium level manufacturer like Crystal
Knitwear from Mansfield – Nottingham also manages to produce
classic knitwear for men above 40 years old.

United Kingdom – Region wise earnings segmentation

It could also be interesting to explain region wise segmentation of

men‟s earnings (per week) those are into full time employment in
the UK. There is a direct relationship of earnings to actual buying of
a garment. Companies also do this kind of segmentation to
understand and spread their stores network accordingly. As clearly
seen (figure 11), men from London earns maximum amount per
week. This region is likely to attract many retailers to open or
expand their certain number of stores.

This (segmentation) marketing effort is usually an on-going process.

Apart from this, any retailer or manufacturer has to understand
consumers well. Their need, choice and loyalty factors are also
essential which is normally be expected to learn through a thorough
study of consumer behaviour.

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Chapter five – The Consumer

North east

North west


East midlands

West midlands


South east

South west



Northern Ireland

0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800

£ per week

Figure 11: Distribution of regional earnings

Source: Office for National Statistics

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Chapter five – The Consumer

Male buying behaviour

‘It is the study of the process involved when individuals or groups

select, purchase, use, or dispose, services, ideas, or experiences and
satisfy needs and desires‟ (Soloman and Rabolt, 2009 p.26).

Role of women/female counterpart

Historically clothing purchase is primarily regarded as a feminine

activity. Generally a woman accompanies their male counterpart
while buying clothing items from the stores. Many researchers reveal
that, whenever men go for shopping at the stores or at supermarket
they generally bypass the “female” social and communicative aspects
such as getting a news about the „Sale‟ in the market (Otnes and
McGrath, 2001).

Personal observation (non-participant) was carried out of English

men over the two months at different high street retailers in
Nottingham as well as in London. It was possible to observe only
thirty men because of the time and cost constraint. It has also
revealed the fact that out for thirty men, twenty seven were
accompanied by women throughout their shopping activity. It was
also observed that women were the most influential factor in men‟s
buying decision making. Most of the times, the conversation between
observant couples were about the suitability in shade and fitting of
the selected garments. Particularly older men (45+) were very
conscious about the fabric quality and the shade. Price was seemed
to be the secondary factor. In few cases it was also observed that
men were least interested in shopping and were managed to quickly
say „Yes‟ to whatever garment has been selected by their female
counterpart. Lacoste and French Connection (FCUK) in Nottingham
have only females on the floor to assist and if required suggest
(particularly on size issue) customers. This could be a marketing
strategy by the retailer of attracting male consumers to buy a

There are many other factors which are important as men in their
buying decision. 1) Successful man who has “made it” in the big
working world and would like to show the status symbol to prove it.
2) Quiet self reliant man who has succeeded where others have
failed in performing particular task. 3) Something which endorses
with the “macho man” look (Otnes and McGrath, 2001).

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Chapter five – The Consumer

Decision making styles

The purpose of this study is also to understand „decision making‟

patterns of male consumers in the UK. It could be advantageous for
knitwear companies/brands to segment their market according to
particular type of male consumers.

Price and value consciousness is about being conscious of the

garment selling price and attempts to get the best value for his
money. Men go out for shopping with an intension to get something
extra for what they are paying. UK men are generally concerned
about the quality. They are of the nature of perfectionism where they
will not compromise on the quality of the product. There is a set of
consumers who believes and relates price and quality of the product
directly proportionate to each other. This thinking normally applies to
the brand conscious people (Bakewell and Mitchell, 2004).

Particularly, young men are more fashion conscious consumers and

are always ready to try something new which is available in the
stores. On the other hand, you may find brand loyal and habitual
customers who don‟t change the brand in spite of availability of fast
fashion garments in other branded stores. Some male consumers are
just recreational shopping conscious people. They just feel good at
looking for the product rather than actually buying it. There is
another interesting category of consumers who does careless
shopping with having no plans in mind. Normally consumers in this
category regret about their decision later. These days, all the
retailers offer as much as possible product choices for the consumer
to select. Too much of choice may confuse the consumer buying
decision (Bakewell and Mitchell, 2004).

The above explained consumer decision making styles could help

retailers and manufactures to market their product in a better
manner. They also have to think how better they can perform by
attracting consumer again and again. The factors which keep the
consumer regularly visit and buy from the store are the loyalty
drivers of the product as well as the company.

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Chapter five – The Consumer

Loyalty drivers

The consumer loyalty is a „relative‟ term in practice and it is difficult

to measure it precisely. Therefore in general, consumer loyalty refers
to the consumer‟s inclination to patronise a given brand/store or
chain of stores over time. Researchers have been using different
measures like budget measures, switching (of retailers) measures to
understand and assess consumer loyalty (Knox and Denison, 2000).
These consumer loyalty drivers have been revised with the change in
the UK clothing retail in view of its size and structure. No retailer
would like to compromise on their market share due to any factor to
its competitor.

In this dissertation, emphasis has been given on key consumer

(male) loyalty factors based on secondary and very limited primary

Identifying loyalty drivers

In the current UK clothing retail, product ranges offered by stores or

high street retailers will always remain the most important loyalty
driver amongst male consumers. This may not be in case of value
retailers or brands but positively amongst fashion multiple retailers.
This applies to consumers of almost all age brackets. This factor
followed by price of the garment. In the current recession scenario,
price will remain the priority driver amongst men at least till UK‟s
economy comes back to the normal state. Male consumer may opt
for low quality goods over the price factor and save some penny on
clothing purchase. These days, quality comes in the place after
Range & Price. Many high street retailers like Primark, Matalan are
concentrating on fast fashion products that are actually targeting the
15-24 age brackets where price matters over quality. On the other
front, brands like Fred Perry, Lacoste, Lyle & Scott etc. are genuinely
targeting the quality conscious market and offers really good quality
fabric & fit. Even they are forced to reduce prices at intervals by
promoting „sale‟ activity (Verdict research, 2008).

It is very essential to provide easy access and convenience of

shopping. Today‟s retailers are trying to satisfy diverse demands by
tailoring their store space. Thus, store convenience for consumers
falls next in loyalty drivers after quality of the product. Due
importance has been given for in store services like product
assistance, customer friendly approach on the tills, self kiosk‟s.
Consumers expect a different shopping experience every time when

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Chapter five – The Consumer

they visit stores. Layout of the stores also plays an important role in
attracting consumers. It provides comfort, space and better
movement area for the consumers. For example, changing rooms in
the store should be located in quieter areas so that consumers using
those do not feel that they are changing on a motorway. The last but
not the least driver is store facilities. Good facilities like
return/exchange of goods, catering to disables and having good
cafeteria or restaurant brings back the consumer to shop once again
(Key note, 2008).

Key findings

A woman is an active participant in buying men‟s clothing products.

There are various types of male consumers in the market depending
upon their age, earning capacity and nature of buying clothes.
Retailers in the UK are trying to hold the consumer by focusing on
various consumer loyalty drivers.

Every brand/retailer has different strategy of marketing their

product. There are specialist brands for men‟s knitwear in the UK
such as Wool over, Harley of Scotland. Some of them are also
supplying to the high street fashion multiples in the UK. This report
further focuses on the comparison between fashion multiples and
individual brands in terms of price, target audience.

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Chapter five – The Consumer


„Today‟s a loud day‟

In pictures: Ten men wearing colourful clothes

Photograph: Asadour Guzelian/Sarah Lee

A quiet fashion revolution has been occurring among our men.

Take a look around, and you‟ll notice that among the grey
suits, khaki trousers and blue jeans, something livelier is
lurking. Once, the preserve of rotund golfers and pink-faced
television presenters, colourful menswear is suddenly
everywhere. And what‟s more, UK men are actually embracing
it. From pastel knitwear to neon trainers, men at last seem to
be discovering that colour needn‟t make you look stupid. In
fact, done well it‟s actually rather stylish. “It‟s a look that has
come directly from the high street. It‟s a really democratic
trend,” says Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire. “Uniqlo is a
big instigator, with pastel pink trousers, pastel blazers, bright
polo shirts, and bright accessories. Topshop has got bright
neon ties, Asos has also really gone for colour.” In fact, the
neon polo shirt as sported by 16-year-old Vincent Mann is on
the cusp of becoming ubiquitous, thanks to Japanese retailer
Uniqlo flogging highly wearable versions for £12.99. High-end
labels are also producing some beautiful, bright, colourful
menswear. Calvin Klein recently did neon green and orange

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Chapter five – The Consumer

suits, Gucci, Lanvin and Bottega Veneta all had cobalt blue in
their spring/summer menswear shows, and even Giorgio
Armani (who notoriously lives in navy T-shirts and perpetuates
beige suits) has branched out into purples and pinks. What can
it all mean? “There is definitely a feeling that colour is more
acceptable, and attitudes are beginning to change; it‟s no
longer confined to the barbecue Hawaiian shirt, thank
goodness, instead it can be worn every day, at work and at the
weekend,” says Nick Thomas, menswear designer at classic UK
label John Smedley. “Colour can be quite medicinal, I think.
Even if the weather is dark and gloomy, wearing colour rather
than blending in with the clouds is much better – escapism
even. A great colour can help lift your mood” (Pool, H. 2009)

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Chapter Six

Retailer and Supplier


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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

High street fashion multiples v/s Independent brands

As explained in the third chapter, there are two broad categories of

the UK market for men‟s knitwear. One is high street fashion
multiples and the other one is independent retailers. Both the
segments of the market operate under different product and price
ranges. There are very few independent clothing retailers left but
they do continue to play important role in niche sectors such as
knitwear (Key Note, 2007).

Comparison overview

In the current UK clothing sector, larger businesses driving the sales

recovery and the smaller players (independent retailers) continue to
see sales decline. Almost all the major players in the UK clothing
market are being impacted by the economic downturn. The top 25
clothing multiples have a share of more than 50% of the market. The
rest remain a large number of small chains and independent stores.
However the long term trend is for these small businesses to be
losing its share in the market (Mintel, 2008).

The fashion multiples has strong buying power and economies of

scale. Powerful retailer also has advantages of recruiting staff, in
acquisitions and in the services it buys from outside suppliers, such
as accountants and legal staff. The supply chain is another area
where large multiples have an advantage over independents of
sourcing the products in bulk at very competitive price. This cheap
sourcing enables these retailers to earn more margins and offer the
products at very competitive rates as compared to the less powerful
independents. A weak buying position and absence of economies of
scale, it becomes very difficult to earn enough margins to the
independents. This makes necessary to raise the price of the product
and further leads to weakening of the company‟s position. Although,
some problems or bad performance may provide opportunities for
independents but at the end well-focused multiples are the main
beneficiaries (McGoldrick, P. 2005).

Product and price ranges comparison

There was a focus to understand the differentiation between men‟s

knitwear products and its prices at fashion multiple stores as well as
at the independents. Thorough price comparative observation was
conducted over one month by visiting five upmarket multiples and
independents to highlight this differentiation.

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

An important „price‟ factor has been compared between fashion

multiples and independents with the same quality and type of the
product. Every selected fashion multiple has been compared with
every selected independent retailers by men‟s knitwear products.
The selected upmarket fashion multiple includes Marks & Spencer,
Jack Wills, Ted Baker, Austin Reed and French Connection. At the
same time selected independent retailers includes Lyle & Scott,
Pringle, Glenbrae, John smedley and Glenmuir.

Marks & Spencer and Independents

Price of the product

M&S Llyle & Scott Pringle Glenbrae John Smedley Glenmuir
Lambs wool
Jumper £40 £75 £110 £65 £120 £85
Cardigan £70 £110 £175 £140 £160 £130
Pique Polo Shirt £25 £45 £55 £40 £60 £35
Merino Wool
Slipover £30 £80 £80 £60 £90 £50
Pullovers/Sweaters £25 £75 £90 £60 £100 £60

Table 1: Price comparison between M&S and Independents

Jack Wills and Independents

Product Price of the product

Jack Llyle & John
Wills Scott Pringle Glenbrae Smedley Glenmuir
Lambs wool
Jumper £70 £75 £110 £65 £120 £85
Cardigan £90 £110 £175 £140 £160 £130
Pique Polo Shirt £50 £45 £55 £40 £60 £35
Merino Wool
Slipover £60 £80 £80 £60 £90 £50
Pullovers/Sweaters £70 £75 £90 £60 £100 £60

Table 2: Price comparison between Jack Wills and Independents

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

Austin Reed and Independents

Product Price of the product

Austin John
Reed Llyle & Scott Pringle Glenbrae Smedley Glenmuir
Jumper £40 £75 £110 £65 £120 £85
Cardigan £60 £110 £175 £140 £160 £130
Pique Polo Shirt £40 £45 £55 £40 £60 £35
Merino Wool
Slipover £40 £80 £80 £60 £90 £50
Pullovers/Sweaters £60 £75 £90 £60 £100 £60

Table 3: Price comparison between Austin Reed and Independents

Ted Baker and Independents

Product Price of the product

Ted Llyle & John
Baker Scott Pringle Glenbrae Smedley Glenmuir
Lambs wool
Jumper £45 £75 £110 £65 £120 £85
Cardigan £70 £110 £175 £140 £160 £130
Pique Polo Shirt £35 £45 £55 £40 £60 £35
Merino Wool
Slipover £45 £80 £80 £60 £90 £50
Pullovers/Sweaters £65 £75 £90 £60 £100 £60

Table 4: Price comparison between Ted Baker and Independents

French Connection and Independents

Product Price of the product

FCUK Llyle & Scott Pringle Glenbrae John Smedley Glenmuir
Lambs wool
Jumper £50 £75 £110 £65 £120 £85
Cardigan £85 £110 £175 £140 £160 £130
Pique Polo Shirt £30 £45 £55 £40 £60 £35
Merino Wool
Slipover £55 £80 £80 £60 £90 £50
Pullovers/Sweaters £65 £75 £90 £60 £100 £60

Table 5: Price comparison between French Connection and Independents

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

There is a clear indication that price for the same type of product
from fashion multiple is lesser as compared to independent retailers
in the UK‟s men‟s knitwear market. There is a price difference of
£30-£40 or more between these two types of retailers. Certainly with
the demand for more premium products growing, albeit still at good
prices, more and more retailers would like to invest in developing
this premium knitwear ranges.

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

Issues for fashion multiples and independents

The current downturn in clothing market growth has forced many

retailers to change their strategic decisions. The priority of
investment to shift towards refurbishment and development of new
back office systems that enables full price sales to be exploited and
margins to be preserved. It is important to raise sales densities on
the shop floor for independents as well as for multiples to improve
profitability (Verdict research, 2008).

Sourcing cost

Overseas Stagnant
expansion market

Issues for
Location Declining
strategy Independent densities

trends Advertising

Figure 12: Issues for fashion multiples

Source: Verdict research

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

Retailers have adopted a new ways of promoting their products to reach

target audience. For example, instead of spending heavy amount on TV
and print advertisements they have started promoting it on the
internet. It is economical for independents to create an online store on
their respective web sites where consumers can view and buy the
product without visiting the store in person (Verdict research, 2008).
Researcher has observed the fact during an interview with Mr. Colin
Beattie of Alan Paine knitwear that a customer online database was
created with their personal details while every time they shop at their
store or through web site. This information was used later to maintain
better relationship with the customer. For example, this kind of
software sends an automated email on customer‟s anniversary or
birthday‟s. This kind of efforts used by independents and fashion
multiples to increase consumer loyalty as well.

An overall household disposable income growth has slowed down in the

UK since year 2005. It was 2.9% in the year 2005 and then has slashed
down to 1% in 2007. This year on year change in the disposable income
has created impact on the consumer to spend less on clothing along
with items such as food and utility bills. Thus retailers have also got
affected due to less growth in their sales. Retailers are implementing
different strategies to survive in the low growth environment. The best
example of this would be to diversify the product ranges into the store
like knitted scarf and accessories. This product diversification could
prove as a potential for a long term growth in the market (Verdict
research, 2008).

Deflation in selling prices of goods has been a fundamental aspect of

the UK clothing market form past 10 years. This trend has been made
possible by the increasing proportion of product that most fashion
multiples have imported goods from many low cost countries such as
Bangladesh and China. Especially retailers like River Island or Monsoon
whose focus is mass middle market consumers, source large proportion
of their knitwear from low cost Asian countries. This international
sourcing has allowed fashion multiples to keep their enough margin on
the product and also allows them to lower in general price of the
product. This stimulates consumers to buy more and more number of
garments from the fashion multiples when they go out for shopping.
Every retailer has a target audience by their age brackets. Generally
there is emphasis given on twenty five year old and above men for
knitwear product in the UK clothing retail sector. There is a normal
perception amongst consumer that specific retailer or a brand offers

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

specific (high or low) quality garments and also maintains the standard
product ranges which is appropriate for the consumers of targeted age
bracket (Verdict research, 2008).

Retailer Target Type of target % space

consumer(male) consumer (male) allocation
age bracket for
knitwear in
the store’s
Burton 25-40 Working/professionals 7.1
TopMan 15-25 Students and fashion 6.4
conscious youth
Debenhams 35-55 Working/professional 3.3
George 25-35 Grocery shoppers 4.4
Marks & 40-55 Business/corporate 5.0
Matalan 35-55 Family shoppers 5.1
Moss Bros 25-45 Trend conscious 4.7
Next 25-45 Wardrobe staples and 8.2
Primark 15-35 Low price fast fashion 5.2
River Island 15-25 Young fashion 8.0

Table 6: UK retailer’s product (men’s knitwear) analysis

Source: Verdict research, 2008

It is clear from the above chart that most of the retailers are targeting
twenty five and above men for knitwear products. It might be different
types of consumers shopping at different stores but their target
audience is inclined more towards mature men.

During the year 2004-2005, there was a strategy of opening large

number of stores across the country to maximise sales volume but
recently since the year 2007 average sales densities have gone down.
This change has made retailers to improve of productivity of existing
floor space. Retailers like Ted Baker and French connection have scaled
back their rate of new store opening but retailers like Primark is
continuing with ambitious new store openings at prime locations of the

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands

cities. Generally all high street fashion multiples has located around the
city centre. Very few have out-of-town presence. On the other side,
most of the independents including premium brands like Pringle and
Harley are located in outside the town or in the less frenetic area.
Researchers also feel that there is going to be greater development of
such independent stores in the rich residential areas as consumers are
trying to avoid trips to big shopping malls where usually there is a
problem of car parking and long queues at the till. There is also an
emerging opportunity for upmarket knitwear brands to open and
establish good sales volumes at the Heathrow airport terminal 5 where
there is a big shopping arcade for passengers (Verdict research, 2008).

In the current economic downturn, UK‟s fashion multiples are looking

for international expansion where there is an untapped market for
quality knitwear. Franchising remains the most preferred model for
most of the UK retailers in the international markets. For example, Ted
Baker has opened own stores and few franchises in United States,
Australia and Middle East. It is yet to prove the profitability factor for
many UK fashion multiples in the international expansion. For instance,
in the year 2007 Ted Baker‟s international turnover was accounted for
£11.4 million but the profits were only £143,000 with an operating
margin of 1.3% (Mintel, 2008).

Key findings

Fashion multiples are having the capacity to source garments from low
cost countries at cheaper rate as compared to the independents. This
cheap sourcing makes possible for them to offer low price products with
the same quality to consumers as compared to the independents.
Fashion multiples and independents are implementing new and
improved methods to maintain the consumer loyalty though future of
independent knitwear brands does not look promising in terms of
growth into the market share.

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Chapter six – Retailer and Supplier Brands


Knitwear firm confirms fresh cuts

A knitwear company in the Borders has confirmed plans for a

second round of job cuts in a matter of months. Hawick Knitwear
announced 36 redundancies in November and now plans to shed a
further 32 posts. A statement blamed the move on a slowdown in
consumer spending which had reduced the size of the company‟s
forward order book. Tory MSP John Lamont described it as
“terrible news” for the workers in Hawick and their families. The
proposal will reduce the company‟s capacity by 20% but will still
allow them to manufacture around 7,000 garments per week. It
has also entered separate discussions over proposals to make a
number of changes to the terms and conditions of all employees
within the business. Managing Director Benny Hartop said the
latest cuts could not be avoided (BBC News, 2009).

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Chapter Seven

Supply Chain in
Knitwear Industry

- 58 -
Chapter seven – Supply Chain

Knitwear supply from overseas to the UK market

– Process in brief

The supply chain encompasses all activities associated with the

flow of transformation of goods (products and services) from
initial design stage through the early raw material stage, and on
to the end user. Additionally, associated information and cash
flows form part of supply chain activities (Hines 2003 p.1-30).

Offshore sourcing by many clothing multiples in the UK has increased

over the past 15 years as a way to lower costs. China, Hong Kong and
Turkey are the top three countries who have got the maximum share of
imports into the UK’s clothing industry. Different retailers have different
strategies of sourcing the products from different countries (Hines, T.
2007). Fast fashion retailers like Primark and Zara has forced overseas
suppliers to manufacture less number of garments with higher designs
and fashion content. There are basically two ends of the market, one is
the price-sensitive volume market and the other one is quality end
market. The former market is been catered by the UK clothing retailers
from low wage economies and the later from European countries.
Especially knitwear products like cashmere and silk are sourced from
China (Easey, M. 2008 p.20).

There is a extensive process involved in clothing supply chain starting

from marketing research till the shipment of goods. Overseas supplier
along with the retailer (from UK in this context) has to plan the process
from the time getting a brief or the idea and product development to
the delivery deadline. Usually in the overseas production, new concepts
in designs are originated from retailers sales and marketing and
designing team. Ultimately an overall performance of the supplier
determines the success of ongoing business. Therefore it could be
worthwhile to understand the basic process from concept development
to the store.

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Chapter seven – Supply Chain

Concept System level Detail design Testing &

Development Design Refinement,
Production ramp-up

1) Marketing
Research 2) Design with Pre costing

3) Present
CAD print-
Customers, Technical out to team
Merchandisers designers
,Designers, specify and
Sales dev make samples
Concepts Reject Accept

Discard/remake 4) Sample
making Check sizing
Focus on end measurement

o Yarn Designer
order and sales Accept
o Knitting reps
o Laundry present
o Cut and samples
sew Becomes
o Assembly an order


Final Production
approval costing

5) Production

Packaging and
Figure 13: Process of overseas supply chain shipping to
Source: Clothing and Textile Research Journal the port of

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Chapter seven – Supply Chain

There are basic five important steps in an overseas knitwear supply

chain which starts from the retailers end. The team from retailer’s head
office does the marketing research keeping the end consumer in mind.
Designing team develops a product according to the cost estimation.
Designers develops sample accordingly. Sketches are shown on to the
computer (CAD) with precise detailing. These designs are then
discussed in the team for its approval. If the design is rejected then it is
discarded and remade. If it is approved then supplier is asked to make
samples. Yarn is ordered then to knit the fabric and prepare a garment.
In this sampling stage, all the required size set is being prepared to
take the fit approval. In the next stage supplier sends his samples for
the approval of designers and sales representatives. If the sample gets
approved then retailer places the bulk garment order with the supplier.
Production cost is done by the supplier and given it for the approval of
the buyer. Once it is approved then supplier takes the order for
production and keeps the gods ready in stipulated time period given by
the retailer/buyer. This whole supply chain process takes approximately
6-8 months depending upon the volume and transportation time
(Pitimaneeyakul et al., 2004 p.119 ).

Following were the top knit apparel exporting countries of the world in
the year 2005-2006. This was the latest comparative data available of
major clothing supplying countries especially for knitwear products.

Top Knit Apparel Exporting Countries of the World in the year 2005 - 06
Values exported Values exported Annual growth in Share in World
in 2004 (US$ bn) in 2005 (US$ bn) 2004 - 05 (%) exports (%)
World 117.36 124.79 6.33 100.00
China 25.80 30.87 19.65 24.74
Hong Kong 12.20 13.32 9.18 10.67
Italy 6.83 6.71 -1.76 5.38
Turkey 6.26 6.35 1.44 5.09
Germany 4.44 4.44 0.00 3.56
Bangladesh 2.39 3.48 45.61 2.79
India 2.47 3.20 29.55 2.56
France 3.03 3.19 5.28 2.56
Belgium 2.39 2.69 12.55 2.16
USA 2.70 2.58 -4.44 2.07
Top 10 Total 68.51 76.83 12.14 61.57
Source: Apparel Export Promotion Council, India
Table 7: Top knit apparel exporting countries in the world

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Chapter seven – Supply Chain

Following were the top knit apparel importing countries of the world in
the year 2005-2006.

Top Knit Apparel Importing Countries of the World in the year 2005 - 06
Values imported Values imported Annual growth in Share in World
in 2004 (US$ bn) in 2005 (US$ bn) 2004 - 05 (%) Imports (%)
World 120.14 124.22 3.40 100.00
USA 33.04 33.29 0.76 26.80
Germany 10.68 10.40 -2.62 8.37
Japan 9.19 9.79 6.53 7.88
UK 8.83 9.26 4.87 7.45
Hong Kong 8.81 9.24 4.88 7.44
France 7.11 7.59 6.75 6.11
Italy 4.79 5.15 7.52 4.15
Belgium 2.99 3.26 9.03 2.62
Spain 3.58 2.76 -22.91 2.22
Netherlands 2.69 2.50 -7.06 2.01
Top 10 Total 91.71 93.24 1.67 75.06
Source: Apparel Export Promotion Council, India
Table 8: Top knit apparel importing countries in the world

As we can observe from the above mentioned tables China was leading
the chart in exporting highest volume of knitwear products to the entire
world. As per the latest data mentioned in the first paragraph of this
chapter, China still leads the position of top exporting nation to the UK
for knitwear. On the other hand USA tops the chart of importing the
highest volume of knitwear products in the world followed by Germany.
United Kingdom was the fourth largest knitwear importer in the world
with total share of 7.45% (AEPC, 2007).

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Investigation and understanding the UK’s clothing sector for men’s

knitwear has been thoroughly analysed through this thesis. The
chapter on knitwear market analysis explains that there is a growth in
the menswear market since past four years but albeit at a slow pace.
Thus UK’s menswear as a whole and the knitwear segment have been
analysed and researched in this thesis. An industry data for men’s
knitwear shows a decline in this market. Secondary data reveals that
an economic downturn is the main cause of this observed slow growth.
UK clothing retail market for men’s knitwear is divided into two broad
segments i.e. fashion multiples and independents. However, fashion
multiples have dominant share of the market as compared to the
independents. Especially value retailers e.g. Primark is a leading player
in the fashion multiples market share. There seems to be a clear
decline in the clothing manufacturing sector of UK. Apparel sourcing by
UK retailers from low wage countries and high labour cost in domestic
clothing production are the main important reasons for this decline.

New technology (refer chapter four) in knitting has improved the

productivity in manufacturing processes of knitted apparel. It has also
supported the economies of scale in producing high volume of
garments. Seamless and whole garment technology in knitting reduces
the stages in cut-n-sew garment production which are suitable for UK
where labour cost is higher. It is been discovered that vertically
integrated units in UK follow similar knitwear production stages to
knitwear suppliers from India. Primary research made it possible to
understand the exact production stages that are followed in the UK.
The comparison of production stages between India and UK was done
on the basis of researchers own work experience in India. However,
other technical visits and interviews with the manufacturers indicate
the fact that there is not much production activity left in UK. There is
hardly anyone who would like to invest on latest machinery.

Market segmentation (refer chapter five) allows retailers to target their

audience in a better way and able to offer better products/services.
The highest male population bracket is 45-65, who seem to have good
buying power and are inclined towards quality shopping. However in
the current economic downturn, these customers are also taking a
step back while buying high priced apparel. On the other side young
male in UK is likely to get attracted towards value retailers or fast
fashion retailers because of their wider product ranges at reasonable
prices. Fashion multiples e.g. Primark, Matalan are offering wide
knitwear ranges to the consumer in order to maintain brand loyalty.

- 63 -

Hence it is becoming difficult for independent high value knitwear

retailers to sustain in the market with higher margins.

Small independents are finding it difficult to compete (refer chapter

six) with big fashion multiples in the current economic downturn.
Fashion multiples can negotiate better prices with the overseas
suppliers because of their buying power due economies of scale. It has
been discovered by systematic price comparative observation that
prices of same quality knitwear from big fashion multiples are cheaper
as compared to the independents. However it seems that premium
brands with a long history will continue to remain in the market. They
may shift their production base to low wage countries. For example,
Pringle of Scotland has shifted their original production base from
Scotland to Italy in July, 2008 as a cost cutting measure (BBC News,

Even though it takes longer periods to source garments from overseas,

retailers from the UK will continue to import in order to gain maximum
margins. Supplier can get a good business for a long term if they
regularly deliver with quality and on time.

Finally, it has to be highlighted that resources and information

channels needed to analyse such a niche clothing segment were
scattered and remote. However with due diligence and a robust
research methodology this project intends to conclude that the men’s
knitwear in the UK’s clothing sector seems to be declining in terms of
production as well as retailing. There are few positive growth factors of
the market explained earlier in chapters four, five and six but overall
market seems to be declining for men’s knitwear segment.


Existing knitwear companies in UK should concentrate on investing in

latest technology rather than following the traditional ways of
manufacturing knitwear. This will reduce their burden on employing
large number of employees. Retailers should design better knitwear
styles for men which will allow them to change their wardrobe
frequently. At the same time independents should try and bring their
price down in order to compete with fashion multiples.

This research could have been more incisive if knitwear as a product

would have been categorised specifically as either under textile
product or an apparel product. There is a lot of scope to explore and
investigate new entrants in the UK market for knitwear and explore

- 64 -

their strategies. And also further research can be carried out to find
out reasons for companies who withdraw their existence from the

The men’s knitwear market can be surveyed beyond the set of

objectives which were researched in this dissertation 'An investigation
into the UK clothing sector for men’s knitwear'. Thus, making a point
that fashion has no boundaries.

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Draper’s record
Fashion Business International
Knitting International

Figures and Images

Figure 1: Research objectives – strategy - researchers own image

Figure 2: Primary research strategy on manufacturing front -

researchers own image

Figure 3: Primary research strategy on retailing front - researchers

own image

Figure 4: Trends in menswear sales by researchers own image sourced

from Verdict research, Oct.2008.

Figure 5: Menswear market positioning in the UK clothing retail -

researchers own image

Figure: 6 – Trends in the UK’s clothing production - researchers own

image sourced from Key Note, 2009.

Figure: 7 – Structure of men’s knitwear market - researchers own


Figure: 8 – Stages in knitwear production - researchers own image

Figure: 9 – Age wise male population in the UK - researchers own

image sourced from Office for National Statistics

Figure: 10 – Age wise earnings in the UK - researchers own image

sourced from Office for National Statistics

Figure: 11 – Distribution of regional earnings - researchers own image

sourced from Office for National Statistics

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Figure: 12 – Issues for fashion multiple - researchers own image

sourced from Verdict research, 2008.

Figure: 13 – Process of overseas supply chain – researchers own

image sourced from Clothing & Textiles Research Journal

Image: 1 – Garment panels for seamless knitwear –

Image: 2 – Example of seamless technology –

Image: 3 – Whole garment knitting -

Web sites

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Appendix - A

Interview with the retailer

Name of the Company – Alan Paine Knitwear Ltd

Address – The Cow House, SCATS Countryside Courtyard

Brighton Road, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1NS

Web –

Name & Designation – Mr.Colin Beattie – Director

Date & Time of the Interview – 22nd May, 2009 at 2 pm

Company Introduction –

“Alan Paine” as a brand founded 100 years ago. It has a solid reputation
as a premium knitwear brand in the UK. The Paine family sold their
business in the year 1990 but Mr.James Hilton is the proud owner of
this British company and still continuing with the same brand name.
The purpose of this interview was to understand the viewpoint of the
retail side of the men’s knitwear market. Being with the company for
almost over four decades, it was worth attempting to get insight the
industry from Mr.Colin Beattie.

1. How did you get into this profession? Professional background?

Mr.Colin is originally from Godalming and lived here for almost

throughout his life. For 2 years he did serviced to the British Army
office in London but decided to quit the job and applied into the Alan
Paine Company which was providing a great employment opportunity
in its Godalming factory. Mr.Colin is serving Alan Paine more than 40
years now is one of the Directors of the company.

2. This store has completed how many years in this region?

The Store which I visited had opened in 1993 when the original
company sold out and taken over by Mr.James.

3. What kind of knitwear products is on offer for male consumers?

The brand offers a classic knitwear range for men. It consists of

100% Cotton Pique Polo shirts, Rugby shirts, Cardigans & Jumpers in

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blend of cotton & cashmere fabrics. There were 14 different types of

products in the men’s knitwear range with almost 10-12 shades in
each range.

4. Which age bracket is your target audience?

The main target age bracket is between 45-65 year old people.
Those youngsters has got the classic taste of knitwear, they do come
and visit the stores. Overall store has a fantastic range of products
to offer for men in different varieties and sizes.

5. Do you have your own designing team? How you create it?

The company has their own team of designers who keeps working
and creating designs throughout the season.

6. Price range of different products?

Price range is of all the lines are on the higher side.

Pique polo shirt – 20 – 25 pounds

Cashmere Jumpers – 85-105 pounds
Cotton & Cashmere blended sweaters – 55-75 pounds
Lambswool crew neck – 40-55 pounds

7. From where do you source all these products?

Most of the products are getting sourced from the countries like
China & Bangladesh but still small proportion of its production is
done within the UK.

8. Have you observed any sales growth in past 2 years?(Approx %)

Mr.Colin explained that company was making a decent growth of

almost 10% in the year 2006 & 2007. During current year, sales are
low but still they are able to maintain little margin.

9. Who do you think is your direct competitor?

Lyle & Scott, Smedley’s are the main competitors for them. They
don’t see any threat from these players but certainly they have
covered a large market share because of their advertising strength.

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10. Do you feel whether brand image attracts men in their buying
decision? Or the quality of the product which speaks?

Company’s policy is to offer best quality garments. Brand image does

give impact on the consumer but ultimately Mr.Colin said it is the
quality which speaks.

11. Do you feel or predict whether men’s knitwear market is growing

in the UK?

Market for men’s knitwear is not very encouraging. He felt, it is very

difficult to survive in this current recession. Mr.Colin showed his
concern in terms of manufacturing as well as retailing point of view.

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Appendix – B

Interview with the retailer

Name of the Company – Peter Gribby Ltd

Address – DevonPark, Normanton Lane, Bottesford,

Nottingham, NG13 0EL

Web –

Name & Designation – Mr. Daniel Gribby – Managing Director

Date & Time of the Interview – 2nd June, 2009 at 11 am

Company Introduction –

After working at various high positions in an industry, Mr.Peter Gribby

started his own company in the year 1985. Currently Mr. Daniel, his son
is looking after the family owned business. “Peter Gribby” is basically a
middle market knitwear brand in the UK.

1. How did you get into this profession? What is your professional

In the year 1982, Mr.Daniel started his career in the clothing

industry. He had started helping his father & mother in their initial
days of setting up this company. Mr.Daniel doesn’t have any formal
education in textile/fashion but now has got rich 25 years of
experience under his belt.

2. Officially, this company has completed how many years?

It has completed 24 years.

3. What is the nature of activity of this company? What is the scale

of this company?

The company sells its goods under two brands. One “Peter Gribby”
which comes under mid-market segment & the other one is “Winter
Beck” which comes under value market segment. Besides this,
company also works as a contract supplier for brands like Farah plc,
Toggy and retailers like Next plc, Bhs. However, Mr. Daniel’s own
experience dealing with UK retailers was not very good. Company

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has also started selling products on the internet where Mr. Daniel is
quite happy in terms of margins. Company’s annual turnover is
between £1-2 million.

4. What kind of knitwear products is on offer for male consumers?

Men’s polo neck jumper

V neck jumper
Tank top
Wool cardigan
Cashmere blended jumper & cardigan
Lambswool jumper
Men’s polo shirt

The company has nice range of quality products to offer for male

5. Which age bracket is your target audience?

As far as brand “Peter Gribby” is concerned, the target consumer age

bracket is 45+ generation. The style, cut and colours were apt for
this range of men. “Winter Beck” is targeted for 60+ men. style, cut
and colours were apt for this range of men.

6. Do you source garments from overseas? If yes, where?

95% of the company’s products are getting produced overseas.

Majority of the production takes place in China, India, Bangladesh &
Bulgaria. Only 5% of the production takes place in the UK.

7. What is the average price range of knitwear?

The prices of Lambswool, Merino jumpers are in the range of £25 -

£30 & products like Cashmere jumpers, cardigan is in the range of
£30 - £50 depends on the blend and quality. In general, none of the
garments priced at more than £50.

8. Have you observed any sales growth in past 2 years? (% growth)

Mr. Daniel said that there is no growth since last 4-5 years. The
business is quite static. In fact he mentioned that this year it is 12-
13% down till now.

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9. Are you able to maintain enough margins & sell the product?

Mr. Daniel feels that because of fluctuation in the currency rates, it is

very difficult to maintain margins at all the time. Somehow company
is able to maintain 5-10% average margin on the offered products.

10. Who do you think is your direct competitor?

In mid level market of individual retailers, he feels Gabicci

International as their direct competitor in the market. Basically there
are very few individual players left in the UK for classic men’s
knitwear segment apart from big retailers.

11. Do you think brand image attracts men in their buying

decisions? Or only the quality of the product that speaks?

As far British 45+ age men is concerned, Mr Daniel feels that the
quality of the product which actually becomes a key driver of brand

12. Do you feel or predict whether men’s knitwear market is

growing in the UK?

Mr. Daniel said as far as manufacturing of knitwear in the UK is

concerned the whole activity has taken a big dive. Because of the
high labour cost and other reasons it is very difficult to compete with
production from low cost countries. On the other hand he also said
that Men’s knitwear is one of the important products for retailers.

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Appendix – C

Interview with the manufacturer

Name of the Company – Crystal Knitwear

Address – Richmond House, Pelham Street, Mansfield, Nottingham, UK
NG18 2EY.
Web –
Name & Designation of the interviewee – Mr. Chris Bingley – Managing
Date & Time of the Interview – 19th March, 2009 12.45 PM

1. Can you please elaborate on your professional background & this

company overview? (Type, Size, Turnover)

It is basically a family owned business and Mr. Chris is running this

since 20 years. The company status is small to medium size company.
He hasn’t disclosed about the turnover but mentioned that it’s been a
very tough journey running this business over the years.

2. What type of knitwear products do you manufacture?

Company is engaged in producing Country styles, Classic knitwear.

Apart from that, they have specific knitwear orders running throughout
the season from various corporate, schools. They market themselves as
“Specialist manufacturer of quality bespoke knitwear”.

3. What type gauge you normally use for producing fabrics? Make of
the knitting machine?

They own only one unit in which there are 12 Shima Seiki lower Gauge
knitting machines. They produce fabric on 5, 7, 10 & 12 Gg machines.
Unit operates in only 1 shift per day and 6 days a week.

4. Is your production unit vertically integrated? (Dyeing + finishing)

Production unit is not fully integrated. Majority of the garments are

made out of 100% Cotton dyed yarn which is sourced from the
domestic agents. It eliminates the process of fabric dyeing. There is a
facility of washing, pressing & packing in the unit.

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5. What is the approx % volume of Men’s knitwear production?

70% of their production is only for Men & rest for kids. The unit is able
to produce on an average 30-50 dozen pcs per month.

6. Which age bracket is your target audience?

There is no specific target audience as such because company is

interested in taking orders for any age group but in the classic knitwear
range, company manages to produce garments for 40+ age group.

7. Do you supply & manufacture for any retailers in the UK?

Company does supply to small & independent retailers in the UK. In

general discussion, Mr. Chris confessed that UK apparel suppliers do not
have capacity anymore to meet the volumes & requirement of the big
retail giants.

8. Have you observed any kind of growth in your sales since last 2
years? How much? (%)

Mr. Chris was disappointed with the industry performance and felt that
there is very slow growth for them since last 2 years in this business.
He feels that end of year 2009 should bring better prospects to the
business. Sales should go up 20%.

9. Do you see further growth in the Men’s knitwear market of the


This company focuses mainly to the niche market rather than volume
business. But he personally feels that demand in the market is
increasing but it becomes difficult for smaller firms to make large
margins in competition with overseas suppliers.

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Appendix – D

Interview with the manufacturer

Name of the Company – Crystal Martin (Knitwear) Ltd

Address – Kirkby Road, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottingham NG17 1GZ.
Web –
Name & Designation of the interviewee – Mr. Paul Revill – Commercial
Date & Time of the Interview – 19th March, 2009 03.45 PM

1. Can you please elaborate on your professional background & this

company overview? (Type, Size, Turnover)

This is multi national company & supplier of all kinds of garments to the
world renowned labels & retailers. Their annual sales are over US$ 800
million. It is a Hong Kong based group having their UK headquarters
along with huge warehouse in Ashfield. They do not manufacture
anything in the UK but does all the sourcing for UK retailers. Mr.Paul
has been associated with this company since 5 years.

2. Do you supply & manufacture for any retailers in the UK? If yes,
which one?

This company supply mostly to all major high street retailers in the UK.
They are the exclusive suppliers of Men’s knitwear to Marks & Spencer
and produce all range of products.

3. Then, where do you manufacture the garments?

Majority production takes place in China but there are many other sub-
suppliers from the countries like Bangladesh, Srilanka.

4. What type gauge you normally use for producing fabrics? Make of
the knitting machine?

For the classic Men’s knitwear, 3, 5, 7 & 12 Gauge machines are used.
Maximum fabric is been knitted on Shima Seiki & Santoni knitting
machines. Though company is engaged in producing all types of fabric &

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5. Do you see any growth in the Men’s knitwear market?

Growth is certainly there in the market in terms of value & volume.

Only this year’s position might be break even but it will continue to
keep growing. They have observed a continuous rise in demand since
last 2 years in the UK.

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