The Textile and Clothing Industry in Germany  

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German is the largest market in Europe for textiles and clothing and, as such, offers plentiful business opportunities for Spanish industries seeking to increase export sales.

A long history of production, innovation and adaptation has placed textile and clothing amongst the leading industries in Germany. They take second place only to food and drink on the German market. 

The German industry is, primarily, composed of small and medium sized companies which, over recent decades, has seen a transformation from low-cost high-volume production to that of high quality. Germany is now the world leader in technical textiles with 45% of the market.

Germany also plays an important role in international trade for textiles and clothing ranking fourth as a worldwide exporter. Exports represented 42% of the industry in 2013. At the same time, Germany is the second largest importer of textiles after the US thus becoming a very attractive market for textile exporters, especially since the 80s. The market is particularly attractive for overseas clothing manufacturers as the vast majority of the German wardrobe is imported. 

The German Clothing Market in Figures 

  • Imports in 2013 were € 36,200 million and exports € 24,000 million.
  • Total turnover in 2013 was 40% apparel and 60% technical textiles.
  • The majority of imported textiles and clothing come from Asia (51%) followed by the EU with 31%. Germany’s main trading partners are: China, Turkey and Bangladesh.
  • E-commerce has become a very popular way to buy clothing, accessories and footwear. This is a logical progression from catalogue sales which have always been very popular in the country. A large-scale survey shows that nearly 33% of on-line shoppers used e-commerce channels. This makes clothing and footwear the most attractive sector for on-line purchases.

What is the Potential Strength of the German Market

In addition to being the second largest importer of textiles and clothing in the world, Germany has been a growing market in recent years. Germany’s 18% share of the total market in 2013 makes it the largest in Europe, though there was a small drop in demand of 1’1% that year.

These figures demonstrate the enormous potential of this market for those Spanish exporters and producers of textiles and apparel that wish to expand their presence in the German market. Armed with adequate, accurate information on the market and distribution channels and contacts with potential customers, Spanish textile manufacturers should have very little difficulty in increasing sales to Germany successfully.

The Keys to the German Market

The first step is to do your homework thoroughly. There are many facets and aspects that have to be taken into consideration: norms and standards, labelling, import regulations and industrial certification.

  1. Standards

Establishing DIN standards for clothing, textiles and textile machinery is the responsibility of the Committee for Textile Machinery Standards (Textilnorm). DIN Standards establish the criteria for dimensions and technical terminology as well as testing procedures in specialised areas. Foreign companies must guarantee that their products are fully compliant with German standards.

  1. Labelling 

Labelling is governed by the German Law of Labelling and all textiles, whether produced domestically or imported shall be labelled to show material composition. The Law also specifies that any and all textiles in the supply chain shall carry information on the care and washing of the fibres in the composition as well as sizes using metric units. The Labelling Law is in compliance with EU Directive 96/74 that harmonises labelling in Europe.

Although care symbols on the labels are not mandatory in Germany, The National Association for Textile Care Labelling, GINETEX, has defined an internationally recognised labelling system based on symbols. These symbols provide traders, public, manufacturers and importers with standardised information on the correct care of textiles.

  1. Import Regulations 

The import of textile products into Germany requires a Certificate of Origin (Ursprungzeugenis) and all companies wishing to import must make sure goods are so covered. Those countries not included in bilateral agreements with the EU will also need an import licence (Einfuhrgenehmigung). Import licences may be obtained from the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Import Control (BAFA).

A reliable source for import tariffs for textiles products into Germany is the Integrated Tariff of the European Communities(TARIC).

This is a data base that contains all the information pertinent to import regulations and tariffs with a view to harmonising them across the EU. German Customs Administration also provides a tariff guide for electronic goods (EZT). This data base, published in German, provides all the information supplied in the TARIC plus local consumer taxes. In addition, the EZT also provides information on all the certificates that shall accompany imported textile goods.

Furthermore, in accordance with the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) – 1907/2006/EC – those manufacturers and importers of textiles that contain potentially dangerous chemicals shall register such substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and guarantee a reliable chain of communication during the complete supply cycle. The main aim of REACH is to control the safety of chemical products in consumer goods. Further information and details can be obtained from the ECHA web site

  1. Certificates 

The most commonly used quality certificate in Germany and throughout the EU is Oeko-Tex 100. This is a voluntary certificate that provides manufacturers of textiles and apparel a uniform standard through which to guarantee to consumers that the goods they are purchasing contain no hazardous substances. All raw materials, intermediate and final products shall be certified through each stage of production in order to comply with the standards.

Another popular and widely used voluntary label is the European “Ecolabel” is used for goods manufactured for recycling in accordance with the strictest ecological requirements. The logo may be used only after a stringent process of tests and certification and may be applied to any number of organic goods including textiles. The label is conferred by independent certifying bodies that guarantee the label internationally.

German Distribution Channels

The most cost efficient way of breaking into the German market is by contracting the services of a sales agent.

Another way of getting into the market is through importers or wholesalers. These tend to be experts in their fields and are very knowledgeable on the different segments within the textile market. An additional advantage is that they will handle all the details and paperwork involved in importing, storing and distribution.

Spanish manufacturers and exporters can also sell directly to buying centres. These groups tend to be formed by small and medium sized enterprises who have joined forces with a view to optimising prices by strengthening their purchasing power.

Catalogue sales and, more recently e-commerce, are a very well established German instiution and are widely used by consumers all over the country.

For further information on how we can help you enter the German mrket for txtiles and clothing, please contact:

Júlia Farré