Saudi Arabia is a major market for women's, men’s and children's clothing. The market is distinctly segmented between the upper, high-end sector and the lower-priced market. This report focuses on the high-end segment of the apparel market, which is dominated by imports from Europe and the United States. The lower end of the market is characterized by imports from the Far East and Southeast Asia, some of which copy the style of European and American brand names. Women’s custom shops also prevail in this segment of the market, where labor is relatively cheap.
Saudi Arabia has a very young population. More than 41% of the population is under 14 years old; another 18% are aged between 15-24 years, making it a strong and influential consumer group. In 2008, U.S. clothing exports reached $450 million. The apparel market tends to follow a seasonal trend in line with Saudi religious holidays and summer breaks when clothes shopping reach its peak. In recent years, U.S. brand names and stand-alone boutiques have edged higher in retail sales and gained a larger foothold from European companies. European brand-name boutiques are also competing in this market, namely from Spain, Italy, France, U.K., and Germany. Almost all of these boutiques cater to the young middle-upper class clientele.
Changing habits and lifestyles, especially among young Saudis, is fueling demand for Westernstyle clothing. Satellite television, internet, overseas travel, and more women joining the labor force contribute to an evolving and changing life style and dress codes. The upper-end of the market is dominated by imports from Europe and the United States. The partial deterioration of the United States' image in the wake of regional political events temporarily opened many doors for European competitors to gain market share. This trend appears to have ended now and U.S. brand names that had a big share in the market like Guess, GAP and XOXO are seeing an increase in sales. Saudi consumers commonly become attached to brand names and carefully look out for new product lines from these brand names.
Saudi buyers usually look for conservative clothing, long sleeved blouses, longer skirts, and less revealing clothes in general. Another buying factor is the assortment of colors and material.
Lightweight and bright colors are more in demand due to the hot and humid climate prevailing in Saudi Arabia. Light wool, light to medium weight cotton or blends fair better than polyester and nylon blend material.
By Maisa Al Tawil