The biggest fashion distribution companies have barely touched this segment, where small companies must face another challenge: confronting the topic of the low profitability of this business.
Nine months of pregnancy, three of breastfeeding, a whole year: 365 days, or two and a half seasons, in which the wardrobe has to be renewed. And yet, there are hardly any chains in Spain specialized in the maternity segment. And the reason? Most of the expecting mothers do not think it is necessary to invest in maternity clothes since it is a ‘short’ period of time. Zara added clothes for pregnant women to her offer last September, thus entering a segment where H&M stands out in the mass market, the British Seraphine in premium and Asos in the online business.
The clothing segment for pregnant women in Spain is a very small market, with few specialized operators and some low cost competitors. One of the factors of the shortage of consumers in this sector is unquestionable: the fall in the birth rate. According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), in the first half of 2018 there were 5.8% fewer births than in the same period of the previous year.
Moreover, as experts point out, over the last years the type of product and the way of purchasing, as well as the sector itself, have changed. “The expecting mothers consider that it is an unnecessary expense,” explains Julieta Planas, owner of the Spanish Company Paramamá. Although the large fashion groups like Zara, H&M and El Corte Inglés are not completely betting on this segment and only have remaining supplies in some stores, this fact has become the main disadvantage for these companies, as well as for online companies that have collections like Asos Maternity.
Despite being scarce, Zara or H&M’s supply is the main disadvantage of specialized companies
“Consumers think that this type of clothing articles have a very limited period of use,” explains Ángela Álvarez, from Prénatal. “However, if the number of times one of this garments is multiplied, it is more profitable than other seasonal product that you are going to wear just twice,” underlines Planas.
Moreover, “people does not look for quality, but to muddle through and focus on the indispensable,” points out Noemí Kleque, responsible at Mit Mat Mamá, “that is why they consume products from fast fashion chains.” The businesswoman, who one year and a half ago acquired the company specialized in maternity wear, adds that consumers do not go to buy to that type of stores precisely “because it is a short period of their lives.”
The shortage of suppliers is another one of the weak points of this segment of fashion. “For them, it is unprofitable because productions are small, patterns are very complicated and fabrics quite particular,” explains Planas.
Prénatal, Paramamá and Mit Mat Mamá are some of the few companies that operate in this segment
Besides, “they can only produce for a few stores because it is a very small market with few operators,” continues explaining the businesswoman. “Since I started in this sector in 2008, eight of the fifteen companies I worked with have been left behind,” she added.
Paramamá and Mit Mat Mamá are some of the few Spanish companies that operate in this segment, where the pattern designing and the technical characteristics of the garments are their differential factor. The profile of the majority of the clients that buy in these companies are working women who do not find an offer in other chains. Prénatal, although it specializes in childrenswear and childcare, also has maternity clothes among its products.
Paramamá was born in 2007 by the hand of the businesswoman Julieta Planas. The company has three stores in Barcelona, on Muntaner Street, Rambla de Catalunya and the L'illa department store. In addition to everyday clothing for pregnant women, Paramamá distributes intimate and breastfeeding products, as well as wedding dresses for pregnant women.
Séraphine, Destination Maternity or Isabella Oliver are some of the international companies specialized in this segment
Mit Mat Mamá, on its behalf, was founded in Barcelona in 1983 also specialized in maternity wear. The company has thirteen points of sale distributed between Madrid and Barcelona. The group went through a restructuring process over the last few years after the society Santivi, owner of the brand, was dissolved. Now, the company is led by Noemí Kleque, who is also manager at Pandion Bussiness, the society that controls Mit Mat Mamá.
Both Paramamá and Mit Mat Mamá had to diversify its products to maintain the business. The main decision they took was to focus its supply on breastfeeding products and other articles related to the pregnancy process, as well as underwear and pantyhose. In addition, these brands also take advantage of the large demand on childrenswear to attract expecting mothers and they include in its offer children clothes and childcare products.
On the other hand, Spain is at the bottom of the list of other European counties regarding the supply of maternity products. “In other countries there is much more demand and awareness of the need for this kind of products,” says Planas. Mit Mat Mamá, for example, does part of its business in France. “There are even luxury companies specialized in maternity wear,” points out.
The lack of suppliers is another of the weak points of this segment, since production costs are very expensive
This is the case of the British Séraphine, created in 2002 by the French businesswoman Cécile Reinaud and which closed 2017 with a revenue of 15.87 million pounds (17.9 million euros). The group has ten points of sale spread between London, New York, Paris, Dubai and Hong Kong. The company's products, which range between two hundred and four hundred euros, are part of the premium segment.
In addition, Séraphine, which offers from party dresses for pregnant women to accessories, has become a recognized brand thanks to celebrities such as Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, or the actress Marion Cotillard, who have worn clothes from the brand during their pregnancies.
Another one of the international companies specialized in the maternity segment is Destination Maternity. The US group is one of the largest companies in the sector, with a revenue of 406.2 million dollars in 2019. The company has a network of 1,114 points of sale in the United States distributed in own stores and corners in department stores. The company operates with the chains Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in the Pod and Destination Maternity.
H&M is one of the most powerful companies in this segment, although most of its products are basic garments
The Italian Isabella Olvier is another one of the large groups in the sector specialized in this segment. The company, which distributes its products only through the online channel is property of the British group Baukjen.
In parallel to specialized groups, large distribution companies such as Asos, Zara and H&M also entered this segment. Zara launched last September the first maternity wear collection, named Mum. This is not the first time the chain from Inditex enters this segment, since some years ago it released a line specialized in basic articles for pregnant women.
At the moment, H&M is one of the most powerful groups in this segment. However, the supply of the Swedish company is limited to basic garments like T-shirts, underwear and jeans. Apart from H&M and Zara, another group that bets on maternity wear is Asos, which has a section with more than a thousand products for pregnant women.