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Sweater sales increase in Europe.

The market for flat knitted tops for women in Europe is quite substantial, according to a July 2005 market brief published by the Center for the Promotion of Imports (CBI) based in Rotterdam. In 2004, the market amounted to US$21.2-billion and is expected to grow to US$22.3-billion by 2006.

What are flat knitted tops?

In layman's terms, flat knitted tops are sweaters. In the more precise language of the industry, flat knitted tops consist of three broad product groups: Cardigans, basically sweaters that open at the front; jumpers, essentially tight fitting sweaters that pull over the head and are grouped as casual wear, and sweaters, which are nearly the same as jumpers but fit into the leisure wear product group.

Germany is the biggest euro volume market in the EU for flat knitted tops. The United Kingdom (UK) is the fastest growing market among the original 15 EU members. Growth is faster among the 10 new EU member countries.

The market breaks down this way. In 2004 approximately 800-million units of flat knitted tops were sold. Of that number, 40 percent were jumpers, 23 percent cardigans, and 37 percent were sweaters.

The CBI market brief said that the main emerging trend in the market was casual wear at the office, and leisure wear at home, which, for example, accounts for the increase in the sale of sweaters.

The most popular material used in making flat knitted tops was man-made fibers, in particular 100 percent acryl. But CBI said that the use of materials varied widely across the market. The increase in the use of man-made fibers took market share from wool and hair, two other popular materials with still strong sales in Italy.

Four major trends are driving increased sales in the market. The most prominent is a consumer preference for leisure wear and casual wear, which tends to favor knitted fabric over woven.

A second visible trend is what the CBI calls a "polarization" of the market. There is a split between upscale purchases of fashion goods, and inexpensive imports.

Third, in general terms, consumers are favoring lighter, softer materials. These materials use man-made fibers, which look and feel like cashmere or other hair. Consumers are also showing a preference for more color.

Finally, consumers feel that knitted material is more comfortable than apparel made from woven fabric - it stretches. Also, knits are easier to take care of. They don't wrinkle and don't need ironing.

CONSUMER MARKET INSIGHTS:
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Publication:Market Europe
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:413
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