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December 1, 2021

Predictions for 2022: 7 challenges & opportunities for clothing startups

By: Peter Gregory

Are you ready for next year? We spoke to a cross-section of our customers, large and small, to find out what their predictions are for 2022. There will be some big opportunities to capitalise on this coming year, but there are some challenges to watch out for, too. 

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the UK clothing industry’s 7 most common predictions for 2022. It should be an exciting year for those of us in the clothing industry, so let’s get prepared! 


1: Inflation

Many of us have already felt the pain of higher energy and shipping costs. Inflation began to rear its ugly head in the final few months of 2021 (source: ONS), and it looks like this trend is set to continue in 2022. Inflation eats into your profit margins, so it’s important to keep an eye on it and get ahead of it wherever possible. Clothing businesses of all sizes can take 3 steps to protect against inflation:

  • Bulk-Buy Your Materials.
    If you think that the price of your textiles and blank garments is likely to go up in future, it makes sense to order as much as can afford, as soon as you can. You’ll need room to store the extra stock, and you will need to make a lot more sales to ‘pay off’ the cost of your raw materials. If inflation continues to rise, then there’s a good chance you’ll save yourself money in the long run. 
  • Increase Your Prices.
    If production costs on each garment start to sneak up, then your prices may have to go up, too. Price increases are unnerving — there’s always the fear that you might be pricing yourself out of the market. Try to increase prices gradually and give your buyers as much warning as possible. 
  • Sell Overseas.
    Inflation feels like things are getting more expensive … but inflation can also be a sign that our national currency is losing some of its buying power. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for manufacturers if the pound sterling weakens against the euro, for instance, as it will make UK-made clothing more appealing to consumers based in the EU. In 2022, keep an eye on our exchange rate with the Euro (EUR:GBP) and be ready to sell to customers in Ireland, Germany, France and beyond!

2. High Shipping Costs & Supply Chain Issues

Almost every GB Labels customer we spoke to is still facing some sort of supply chain issue. Shipping container fees are four or five times what they would have been in 2019. Goods that would normally take around 2 weeks to arrive from the far east are taking 6 weeks or more. Post-Brexit customs procedures aren’t helping matters, either. The international supply chain hasn’t been right since the start of COVID-19, sadly, and it looks like we’ll still face some challenges in 2022. 

In an ideal world, we could just buy all of our raw materials from within the UK. Nothing would need to come to us across the ocean in a shipping container, and we wouldn’t have to deal with these kinds of global supply chain problems. In reality, we live in an interconnected global economy. You can get your hands on 100% British textiles like tweed, but to create the perfect finished garment, you may still  need threads, linings and accessories from overseas.

The best defence against this kind of problem is to communicate with your suppliers regularly, and make sure that they have everything you need in stock. If you have to bring goods in from outside the UK, try to do it on DDP Incoterms. DDP stands for Delivered Duty Paid: with DDP, the seller of a shipment agrees to take full responsibility for the customs paperwork and delivery to an overseas address.


3. More Clothing Startups

Now that the furlough scheme has drawn to a close (source: gov.uk), we may see a slight increase in the UK’s unemployment rate, especially at the start of 2022 (source: Resolution Foundation). This may boost the ‘kitchen table’ sector of the clothing industry: we could see more people producing a small line of garments, usually by hand, on a part-time self-employed basis from home. 

This kind of home-spun activity is great from the economy overall, but it can be unsettling for established small clothing businesses who suddenly find themselves competing with lots of brand new businesses. If this happens to you, the best thing you can do is stay competitive. Offer the very best quality product you possibly can, keep your prices keen and look after your customers as carefully as possible. 

If you think you’re about to become a clothing startup, then let us know! We have a self-service label builder going live in 2022 which will help you create a bespoke, cost-effective first batch of woven labels for your business. Watch this space!


4. A More Sustainable Clothing Industry

We were so proud to see COP26 take place in Glasgow in 2021. The clothing industry still has a lot of work to do around sustainability, so we’re glad to see the environmental impact of clothing get more mainstream attention. 

All of the clothing businesses we spoke to are looking for ways to make their business more sustainable in 2022. Not only is this great news for the environment, but it makes good business sense, too. According to recent research from Ernst & Young, UK shoppers are more interested in buying sustainably than ever before (link). 

There are lots of ways to make your clothing startup more sustainable. You can ship goods in eco-friendly packaging (see our guide), source recycled and eco-friendly raw materials, and buy locally to keep your carbon emissions as low as possible. 


5. More Online Shopping

Asos.com is over 20 years old. Gymshark turns 10 in June. Notonthehighstreet.com is old enough to apply for a driver’s licence. Online retail has been around in the UK for decades, but it’s still growing, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down (source: statistica). 

We don’t expect a lot of brand-new clothing stores to suddenly pop up all over the internet in 2022, but we do think that the shopping experience will become a more important part of the decision-making process. 

Now is the time to brush up on your clothing photos and product descriptions, if you haven’t done so already. If you’re new to e-commerce, take a look at our guide to selling handmade fashion online.


6. International Travel Returns

Dust off that passport! 2022 will be a big year for the travel industry. After a hellish 2 years for airlines, travel agents, hoteliers and tour operators, things are finally looking up. Airports are busy again, cruise ships are back in the water, and the UK is ready to go on holidays again.

We think that there’ll be a surge in travel-related clothing sales this year. If you’re in the swimming togs and ski wear business, now’s the time to stock up. Even if your business isn’t tightly focused on travel wear, think about doing a small range of one or two holiday-related items. What kinds of travel accessories could your business provide in 2022?


7. A Changing High Street

It’s hard to know what our retail landscape will look like by the end of 2022. Fashion brands that could be found on every high street in the country a few short years ago are now online-only (GAP, for instance). Other brands have disappeared completely. As a result, there are empty retail units in almost every British high street. This could be a great opportunity for clothing startups looking to grow past an online-only sales campaign.

We’d love to see some fresh, independent fashion brands take a chance on the high street. Brick-and-mortar stores are a better solution for a lot of shoppers, because they can try clothes on before they buy. What’s more, if you pick a good location with great frontage, thousands of passersby will be exposed to your shop’s brand every day. That’s great exposure and it really helps get the word out about your brand! 


8: England Win The World Cup! 

OK, this is a bonus prediction, and it might be wishful thinking … but we don’t care!

England have qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar next November … and this time we’re going to win it! We made it to the final of the Euros, so why not?

Expect a surge in demand for England-branded items from late summer onwards. Even if you’re not selling activewear, have a think about how to infuse the spirit of Three Lions into your product range. The more you can do to get organised now, the better your chances of capitalising on football fever next November. 

If you want England-themed woven labels, let us know! We already have some bookings for limited-edition labels and we’re stocking up on our vivid red and pristine white threads.


Our Advice: Focus on Quality

If we do see price inflation and a bigger push towards sustainability next year, then people will probably opt to buy less ‘fast fashion’ and choose to invest in a smaller number of high-quality items. If this happens, then British brands that produce top-tier products can expect to do well.

Our advice is to work hard to improve the quality of everything you sell. Investment in quality is a win-win. If 2022 pans out the way our customers think it will, you’ll be ready. If these predictions are totally wrong, you’ll still have top-quality garments to sell!

Whatever happens in 2022, rest assured that GB Labels will still be here, ready to deliver the finest bespoke labels for your clothing brand! If you haven’t seen what GB Labels can do, ask us for a sample pack. We’ll get some sample woven & specialist labels in the post to you today!

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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