EU’s overall apparel imports in 2019 were approx. €177.3 billion, accounting for nearly one-third of global apparel imports. Out of the total imports, almost 50% are made from extra-EU countries including 20% from developing countries. However, in 2020, due to the pandemic, EU apparel market was heavily impacted, and the extra-EU imports dropped by 14% to €68.4 bn.
On YTD basis, imports are about 22% less in 2021
Figure 1 below illustrates monthly trend of extra-EU apparel imports from Jan 2019 to Feb 2021. It can be observed that the imports in Jan 2020 were almost equal to Jan 2019 but then started declining as the lockdowns started happening. The imports hit the lowest in April & May 2020, at €3.6 bn., almost 37% lower than in 2019. From Jun onwards, market started recovering partially and in Sep. 2020, the imports came almost at par with those in Sep 2019. But then the second wave of coronavirus hit the EU causing the imports to again reduce.
In Jan. and Feb. 2021, the imports registered a decline of 29% and 15%, respectively compared to 2020. On YTD basis, this year’s imports are about 22% less than 2020.
 Extra-EU: Countries other than 26 countries that are part of the European Union
 YTD: Year-to-Date
China and Turkey managed to increase market share marginally in 2020
Figure 2 shows the shares of top 5 apparel supplier nations in extra-EU imports. These countries (China, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, and Vietnam) accounted for approx. 68% market share in 2019 and 2020. As it can be observed, the share of China and Turkey increased 1% each, while that of Bangladesh and India decreased by 1% each. Global pundits had predicted China to lose share, but the reverse happened in EU apparel market. Turkey was an expected beneficiary as the brands first cancelled orders from South and Southeast Asian countries to maintain shortest possible supply chain.
YTD data for 2021 is only for two months which is a very short period to draw meaningful insights in terms of share change, but China is maintaining its share. Also, consolidation is visible as the cumulative share of top 5 suppliers has increased by approx. 4%.
At this juncture, it seems unlikely that 2021 will see full recovery compared to 2019. But it is important to note that majority of the apparel imports (55%) happen in second half of the year. With pandemic appearing to be in control and ongoing vaccination drives, strong revival cannot be completely ruled out.