Textile Industry & Apparel Market in Japan: Key Research Findings 2019
Yano Research Institute (the President, Takashi Mizukoshi) has conducted a survey on the domestic textile industry/apparel-related market, and found out the trends by fields and the future outlook.
Based on the Census of Manufactures by Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, transition in the number of employees, amount of product shipment, and number of businesses are compared between 1994 and 2017. During these 23 years, production capacity scaled down to approximately one third of 1994; number of employees has dropped to 27.5% of 1994, product shipment to 38%, and number of businesses to 22.7%. This is due to offshoring by domestic makers after the collapse of the bubble economy, shifting production from domestic to overseas, mainly to China.
While decline of the textile industry is obvious, some “backshoring” cases are seen in recent years. This movement is not, however, to increase volume of production; it is for the sake of survival by producing value-added high quality products. Rise in product unit price not only increases shipment value but also leads to securing employees for business continuance. Attempt of “mass-customization” by the textile industry in recent years is contributing to expansion of domestic production bases.
Trends of Smart Textile
Smart textile can be called many ways, such as intelligent textile, e-textile, smart-clothing, or wearable device; however, in recent years, it is often called wearable device. Using materials like electrically conductive fiber, wearable device enables capturing of vital signs such as heart rate, respiratory rate, electrocardiogram, and electromyogram, or recording of human movements by utilizing fiber material’s stretchability (motion capture).
Modern-type wearable devices became technologically feasible in mid 2000s; it pervaded as related technologies were applied to PC, feature phones, smart phones and tablets. Moreover, new wearable devices increased rapidly especially among Android smartphones from around 2012-2013 to present.
Types of wearable devices include elastic wear-type, wrist/bust band type, and tape/patch type. Since materials of wear type and wrist/bust band type are fiber-based and tape/patch type is resin/rubber/TPE-based, they are collectively called “stretchable device”.
Viewing the stretchable device from demand fields (sports, construction, transportation, healthcare, entertainment, nursing, and healthcare), nursing, healthcare, and construction are expected to drive the demands.
Apparel industry’s reliance on overseas supply chain for production ended up causing mass defective inventory. Demand-supply gap made discount sales become everyday business practice, diminishing reliability of product price. In some cases, apparel companies take discounts as a given when setting their price.
A root case of defective stocks in apparel industry is speculative production. Because of unstable elements like product volume, size, color, pattern, trends, selling seasons and climate, projection on demand is difficult and therefore it had to be speculative. In addition, since capitalistic production pursues cost reduction, promoting mass production overseas is a norm. As a result, considerable amount of dead stock is accumulated year after year, making businesses difficult to rid itself of the vicious cycle. In short, excessive production is the cause of current stagnation in the apparel market. This implies that if speculative production is minimized, defective inventory will be minimized. Closing the gap between demand and supply should recover confidence in price, instead of allowing discount sales as ordinary business practice.
A most effective way to minimize speculative production is to actualize made-to-order production, and one of the methods for it is “mass-customization”.
Furthermore, services provided by “fashion-tech” companies using AI and other technologies to improve accuracy of demand forecast and manage production based on more precise forecast are helpful in enhancing demand projection at suppliers and in triggering demand at end-users. The textile industry and apparel market are obliged to shift to stockless business model to break away from speculative production.
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