Skip to Main Content

Fashion Industry: A Resource Guide

Retail, Wholesale, Manufacturing & Trade

There are various systems used for industry research to classify business entities. Knowing these schemes can make some areas of research easier because some databases, many of the print sources, and the U.S. government (most notably the Census) use them in their indexing, charts, graphs, lists, and indexes. The most important of these in the United States are the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) and its companion the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS). If you are doing historical research knowing the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) used before the development of the NAICS will be helpful as well.

Internationally the International Standard Industrial Classifications of All Economic Activities (ISITC) External is maintained by the United Nations. Manufacturing and retail are treated as their own activities so both are necessary to understand the industry as a whole.

Relevant codes from these systems for the industry are included in the sections below, along with links to government data related the fashion industry are included when available.

You will also want to research the companies themselves. While we have a guide that goes into more detail there are a few quick things to mention. Look for articles but also look at their web sites for the corporate information in the about us or investor relations area, as well as look at press releases. For example:

  • If you are researching clothes look at several of the big labels and retailers.
  • If you are looking for niche products like shoes or underclothes, figure out the big players in terms of manufacturing and selling and look at them individually.
  • If you are looking at the selling end of the business, look at both brick-and-mortar retailers and online companies corporate and ecommerce web sites. See how they organize, what features they offer, etc.
  • If you want to understand trend watching/fashion forecasting, there are always articles and general Internet searching, find out the names of companies. Because they are likely to be small and there may not be much written about them, you will want to look at their websites but also look at who links to their websites because that can revealing.
  • If the company is a large publicly traded company, go their investor relations page and dive deep into the company financials - particularly the 10K (see the U.S. Public Companies section).

Retail & Wholesale & Manufacturing - Data & Industry Codes

Various fashion and clothing articles may appear in conjunction with Products & Services Codes in the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS).

Retail Industry

448 Clothing and Clothing Accessories Stores
448110 Men's Clothing Stores
448120 Women's Clothing Stores
448130 Children's and Infants' Clothing Stores
448140 Family Clothing Stores
448150 Clothing Accessories Stores
448190 Other Clothing Stores
448210 Shoe Stores
4483 Jewelry, Luggage, and Leather Goods Stores
45221 Department Stores

Wholesale Industry

4243 Apparel, Piece Goods, and Notions Merchant Wholesalers
424320Men's and Boys' Clothing and Furnishings Merchant Wholesalers
424330 Women's, Children's, and Infants' Clothing and Accessories Merchant Wholesalers
424340 Footwear Merchant Wholesalers

Manufacturing Industry Codes

315 Apparel Manufacturing
3151 Apparel Knitting Mills
31511 Hosiery and Sock Mills
31519 Other Apparel Knitting Mills
31521 Cut and Sew Apparel Contractors
31522 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing
31524 Women's, Girls', and Infants' Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing
31528 Other Cut and Sew Apparel Manufacturing
3159 Apparel Accessories and Other Apparel Manufacturing
31611 Leather and Hide Tanning and Finishing
31621 Footwear Manufacturing
3169 Other Leather and Allied Product Manufacturing
33991 Jewelry and Silverware Manufacturing

The North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) hierarchical structure consisting of sections, subsections, divisions, groups, subgroups, and trilateral products.

14 Clothing, footwear, personal accessories, and related products

141 Clothing, footwear, and personal accessories
14101 Clothing and footwear
1410101 Clothing and footwear
14101010101 Clothing, costumes, vestments, and fur apparel
14101010102 Footwear and shoe accessories
14101010103 Clothing accessories, except shoes, handbags, and jewelry
14102 Personal accessories
14102010101 Handbags, purses, and leather and leather-like personal goods
142 Wholesaling services for clothing, footwear, and personal accessories
14201010101 Wholesaling services for clothing
14201010102 Wholesaling services for footwear and footwear accessories
14201010103 Wholesaling services for men's and women's clothing accessories, including costume jewelry
143 Retailing services for clothing, footwear, and personal accessories
14301 Retailing services for clothing, footwear, and personal accessories
1430101 Retailing services for clothing, footwear, and personal accessories
143010101 Retailing services for clothing and clothing accessories
14301010101 Retailing services for men's clothing
14301010102 Retailing services for women's clothing
14301010103 Retailing services for children's wear, including boys', girls', and infants' and toddlers' clothing and accessories
14301010105 Retailing services for men's and women's clothing accessories, except costume jewelry
143010102 Retailing services for footwear and footwear accessories
145010103 Seasonal apparel and textile storage services

External Websites

Trade - Data & Industry Codes

Trade data is another piece of the industry. Internationally the Harmonized System (HS) External and the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) External are both necessary. Here are just a few that you will need to know but there are others.

Standard International Trade Classification (SITC)

Division 83 Travel goods, handbags and similar containers
Division 84 Articles of apparel and clothing accessories

Harmonized Code

41-43 Raw Hides, Skins, Leather, & Furs
50-63 Textiles
64-67 Footwear / Headgear

External Websites & Subscription Databases

There are a number of free to use data sources as well as fee-based subscription sources that can provide trade data. The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.