Plimsoll: the state of the Workwear and PPE market

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PCIAW®ONLINE asks Plimsoll: where should the professional clothing industry have been by 2021?

The global textile market was expected to decline considerably from 2019 to 2020, due to an economic downturn associated with measures to combat the onset of COVID-19, according to Plimsoll.

The dislocation of supply chains across the world hit huge export markets including India and China. However, a trajectory of recovery has occurred due to the proliferation of online shopping. In total, the global textiles market is expected to expand at a CAGR rate of 7% from 2021 reaching up to $795.4 billion in 2023. The rise of sustainable and ethically sourced fashion is expected to be especially conducive to market growth, reflecting a wider wave of fashion-conscious consumerism across the globe.

As companies have adopted the Internet of Things to facilitate connectivity, smart textiles have come to the fore. These smart textiles react to physical stimuli like thermal, electrical and chemical factors and have started including innovative materials like conductive polymers and optical fibres. This demonstrates an increasing trend towards digitalised innovation and modern developments in the textiles and manufacturing industry.


Meanwhile, the global PPE market is expected to proliferate to $92.5 billion by 2025, a significant increase from its value of $52.7 billion in 2019. This can be credited to a variety of factors, namely government and employer action on securing a supply of protective gear amidst the onset of a global pandemic. The Coronavirus has also led to a growth in individual awareness of the importance of safety wear and protective equipment. The World Health Organisation (WHO) pressed PPE manufacturers on the urgency of rapid production in order to enforce health and safety guidelines. WHO estimates that as of 3rd February 2021, there have been 103,362,039 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,244,713 deaths.

This article presents an estimate of where the size of the Workwear & PPE market should have been by 2021 and beyond, notwithstanding COVID-19. However, there are always problems in calculating market size due to the following reasons:

  • The calculation does not show the fast-growing innovators that are stealing shares.
  • Companies are not easily grouped as they have diverse activities and products
  • Most companies are small, and their sales have an insignificant impact on the size of the market

We should also consider that in the Workwear & PPE industry the difference between the individual firms is stark; of the 759 firms monitored:

  • 34% of the 759 firms reported a fall in sales, whilst 53% reported a rise in sales
  • 25 large firms control 69% of the market
  • Only 7% of the market is in the hands of firms with sales of less than £4 million

As these figures broadly only look at the trends using data incorporating the early stages of the pandemic, this raises some interesting questions:

  • Will the market get back on track and how long might a recovery take?
  • How will this trend change as we monitor new figures throughout 2021?
  • What will businesses need to deliver their share of the market in 2021?

Plimsoll posits that the broader situation is not entirely negative, however, as many firms are already betting on recovery and looking to strategically position their firm to take market share. 

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