Apparel Sector presented by Apparel Pages

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Structure of the Industry

The garment industry is made up of a complex chain of sectors whose roles often overlap. In very general terms, the industry includes the following entities:

Apparel manufacturers are primarily engaged in the design, cutting and sewing of garments from fabric. Some manufacturers are contractors or subcontractors, which generally manufacture apparel from materials owned by other firms. Larger manufacturers often contract production to many such contractors or subcontractors in the U.S. and abroad. Some manufacturers are vertically integrated, producing the textiles from which they make garments, or even operating retail outlets.

Apparel merchandisers generally design and market clothing, but contract the actual production to manufacturers.

Buying agents locate, qualify and inspect foreign suppliers/producers of garments, negotiate with suppliers/producers, and often monitor production for quality control and compliance with other standards. They may be used by U.S. companies that do not have a large presence abroad, or in addition to a U.S. company's own buying staff.

Retailers are primarily engaged in the distribution, merchandising, and sale of garments to consumers. Apparel retailers include department stores, mass merchandisers, specialty stores, national chains, discount and off-price stores, outlets, and mail-order companies. A relatively new development is the rise of electronic forms of retailing such as interactive TV and on-line shopping services. Some retailers who sell their own private labels go beyond their traditional role as distributors and become directly involved in the design and sourcing of garments from manufacturers and contractors.

Note: The above is from the United States Department of Labor (retrieved June 7, 2011 from


Learn more about the apparel sector on the Apparel Search website.

Employment in the Apparel Sector (Bureau of Labor Statistics (Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition)

International Apparel Sector Guide (Country List)

Global Edge - Apparel & Textiles Resources


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