How to research the women’s clothing and accessories retail industry

This guide will help you research the women’s clothing retail industry ( which includes active wear, athleisure, underwear, lingerie, leisure wear, etc.)  and the fashion accessories industry (jewelry, handbags, etc. ).    My specialty apparel retail industry guide might be useful as well.

Table of Contentsa picture of the Henri Bendel storefront in New York, New York

  1. Understand the industry
  2. Get to know the consumer
  3. Identify company strategies
  4. Analyze Key Companies and Competitors
  5. Cite your information
  6. General research tips (coming soon!)

Note that this page contains links to resources that are only available via subscription.  If you are not affiliated with Ohio University, check with your local library to see if they have access.


Featured image courtesy of southbeachcars, Creative Commons.  I cropped and edited colors.

Understand the overall industry

The resources below will  help you become more familiar with the broad industry, as well as understand smaller sectors of the industry.

First Research

Start with First Research to get a good understanding of the retail sector and clothing store industry.
In First Research,search by keyword to find useful reports such as:
  • clothing stores
  • nonstore retail
  • Internet & Mail-Order Retail
  • Retail sector


IbisWorld provides excellent overviews of broad and narrow U.S. industry sectors.
Search for women’s clothing, leisure wear, sportswear, underwear, etc., to find reports such as:
  • Women’s Clothing Stores in the US
  • Lingerie Stores in the US
  • Handbag, luggage, and accessory stores in the US


Statista contains loads of useful charts and statistics.
  • search by company, for example “L Brands” or by brand, or search by general product category, such as “womenswear” or “handbags” to find relevant data
  • Tip:  Make sure you click on the “Source” to find the link to where the data originally came from. This can be a great way to find more information.

Business Source Complete

Search Business Source Complete to find numerous articles about your industry.
  • Tip:  When searching, limit large search results list to Trade Publications (left side of results page).  This will find articles written by people in the industry, for people in the industry.  This is an easy way to find additional relevant and timely information for the industry.

Get to know the consumer

The resources below provide information for the consumer side of the industry — what customers want, how they are driving the market, why they buy and why they don’t.


Passport contains a wealth of information on the consumer clothing and retail markets.  Reports cover trends, prospects, competitive landscape, as well as provide market and brand share information for the major players in the industry, for each major market around the world.  It is a fantastic resource to understand the industry in other countries.
To save you time, I suggest using the search box to search for the phrase and your country of choice.   For example, if you are interested in Womenswear in France, simply type that in the search box in Passport.   Other suggested searches are:
  • Apparel and Footwear Specialist Retailers in [Insert Country]
  • Internet Retailing in [Insert Country]
  • Bags and Luggage in  [Insert Country]
  • Luxury Leather Goods in [Insert Country]
  • Womenswear in [Insert Country]
  • L Brands Inc in Apparel and Footwear (USA) –  covers strategic direction, key facts, internet strategy, and competitive positioning


Mintel contains market research reports that are based on actual consumer research studies.  These reports address market factors, “what’s working,” customer attitudes, consumer demographics,  brand preferences, key players, and more.   Specific reports that may be useful for this industry include:
  • Online Shopping – US – May 2018
  • Women’s Clothing – US -July 2017
  • Handbags and Accessories – US – April 2017
  • Activewear
  • Men’s and Women’s Underwear and Sleepwear – US – February 2018
  • Activewear – US – October 2016
  • There are a number of other more general reports that might be relevant:
    • Marketing to Teens
    • Marketing to Millenials
    • Marketing to the iGeneration
    • The Affluent and High Net Worth Premium Brand and Luxury Consumer – US

Simply search for the above reports by keyword in Mintel.


Use WARC to research past advertising and marketing campaigns for companies and brands.
  • This can be useful to learn what worked, what didn’t, and what the company has already tried.
  • You can also search for competitor companies and brands to learn how they have tried to attract customers as well.
  • Simply search by keyword (company or brand name) or browse by topics.


WGSN (Worth Global Style Network)  is a very unique resource that focuses on hip trends in the fashion scene
  • It’s not a resource that I’ve used a whole lot, but check it out, as you may find it useful for your own research.
  • Most of the content in WGSN covers current and future fashion styles, so you could use this to understand future consumers.

Identify company strategies

Companies won’t necessarily declare outright “these are all of our strategies” to the whole world,  as that is not in their best interest if they wish to stay ahead of the competition.  However, you can use information from the sources below to get a picture of where a company may be headed to better understand their strategic direction.

Nexis Uni

Nexis Uni (this used to be called LexisNexis) can be used to search for news about the company.   This is a pretty basic way to find news articles.

You can also use Nexis Uni to search for company mergers and acquisitions.  If a company buys another company, this might give you an idea of the direction they are heading.

  • From the Nexis search men, click “Company Info” below the guided search menu, enter your company name, and then select “Mergers & Acquisitions” from the drop-down menu.
  • This video shows you how to find strategy information in Nexis Uni.

You can also read the earnings conference call transcripts to get an understanding of strategic direction.  During earnings conference calls, a company’s executives explain their sales and financials to stock brokers and analysts (who also ask questions).  You can learn a lot from the executive’s answers.


Company 10-Ks

The Business Summary and the Risk Factors sections of the company’s annual 10-K reports can also be useful in understanding a company’s strategy.  In these sections, a public company discusses their primary business operations, as well as provides information about the risks in the environment that can make it difficult for them to do business.  You can use this information to get a better understanding of what the company sees as current, future, and potential challenges.

Analyze Key Companies and Competitors



Hoover’s is a great tool to use to get to know a company.  Simply search by company name, such as L Brands, to get:

  • A concise company overview
  • News and social media about the company
  • A comparison of financials with industry peers
  • Links to industry information (it’s the same content from First Research)
  • Biographies of key company executives
  • A timeline of web traffic and news, with links to relevant articles about the company


Investext contains stock and equity reports that are written by professional analysts from brokerage firms (such as Citgroup, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo).
  • Typically these reports tell you whether you should buy stock in a company or not.
  • They will often compare companies to the industry peers or competitors, giving you some industry insight.
  • Analysts may also discuss some corporate strategy, or what they think is the company’s strategy, or what they think should be the company’s strategy.
  • Unfortunately the search box is quite rudimentary, so you have to search and open a few to see if there’s anything useful.
  • I have two videos that demonstrate how to find different reports in Investext.

D&B Hoovers

D&B Hoovers is a one-stop shop for company information.
  • We’re still having issues with this one.  Use the other Hoovers linked just above.
  • Note:  D&B Hoovers only allows 50 users on the site at the same time.  If that limit is reached, users will see a weird D&B login screen.  The D&B login screen will not work, and will not allow additional logons (it’s not an issue with your account, trust me).  Just try again later when some of the other users log off.
  • Provides a SWOT analysis, News, Significant Developments, and Analyst Reports for public companies.
  • Also contains lots of financial information about companies.


Cite your sources

“If you didn’t write it, you gotta cite it” are words to live by when writing your own reports or presentations.  If you use other sources of information, you absolutely have to cite where the information came from.  If you don’t cite your sources, it’s plagiarism, and that’s not good regardless of whether you’re in the academic or business world.

  • Check out my friend, Steve’s guide to citing business resources in APA format.  He does a great job of demonstrating how to cite tons of different business databases.
  • If you use a resource that isn’t listed on his guide, just use the same basic pattern to build your own citation.

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