Inner-wear (Undergarment) Retail Business Guide

Business Plan Inner-wear (Undergarment) Retail Business Guide 2020-07-09

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This quick guide looks at the business of selling innerwear. These include socks, boxers, panties, bikers, handkerchiefs, bras, vests, lingerie and such.

The guide in terms of consumer behavior and market trends is applicable to many urban and rural areas but a little biased towards Nairobi when it comes to suppliers. This guide will help you quickly understand the business, buying habits and margins.

The innerwear business has been evolving for the last twenty years. Out are the conservative attitudes towards innerwear and are open and experimental. This is both for male and female innerwear. Although the ‘shame’ of purchasing innerwear still exists it’s been eroded to a large extent such that underwear is openly displayed and traded on the streets.

The Kenyan innerwear market is largely focused on the mass market. There are no established brands. For the mass market which also includes a large part of the so-called middle class very few consumers can identify particular innerwear brands. Most of the innerwear in the market is a commodity, not branded at all and consumers don’t care. And where it’s branded, it’s fake; the street vendor selling a Calvin Klein boxer for Kshs.100.

That said a few consumers have developed ‘sophisticated’ tastes and are very particular about the innerwear brands they buy. The high end branded innerwear market is a niche market that requires very good knowledge of the European and American markets.

There is a future for branded innerwear locally. We will cover this section of the market in a different guide. For now let’s focus on the mass market.

Innerwear Consumption Trends
Consumption of innerwear has been on upward trend, this we have deduced from research, conversations with vendors and consumers. A survey we conducted among a group of career urban women between 25 and 37 years showed at any moment most of the women have 10-15 wearable panties, and the number has been increasing year to year. (More results of the survey are contained in the last section of this guide)

Among the reasons that have contributed to the increased consumption of innerwear are:

• Prices have remained constant over a long time, and even when they rise it’s not in such a manner as to lead to a drastic reduction in the purchase. This is despite the fluctuation of the shilling and increased cost of living. Partially this is because of the availability of relatively cheap innerwear imports from China and Turkey which give big enough margins even at relatively lower prices.

The price stability has also been contributed by an increase in the number of entrepreneurs who have joined the innerwear business at the import level.

• Related to the above is the number of entrepreneurs who have joined the business at a retail level. In this case, availability has led to an increase in consumption. The increased competition also stabilized retail prices.

• Trends in the fashion business have also made innerwear ‘enticing’. This has resulted in more consumers buying on impulse.

• Urbanization and social exposure is making it ‘cool’, ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ to have several pieces of innerwear. So for men, it’s not just okay to have two pairs of socks and keep recycling. It’s the same for women.
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