The Brands Behind the $13 Billion International Zipper Wars

The Brands Behind the $13 Billion International Zipper Wars

If your business operates anywhere in or near the area of fashion, you might already know about the international zipper wars. For the rest of us, this story about who will keep our pants zipped hits home on a personal level.

Have you ever wondered what the initials on the zipper of your jeans represent?

Chances are you don’t pay much attention to the zipper as long as it keeps your pants zipped. However, for some international brands, that zipper is everything. The zipper business represents billions of dollars. The Business of Fashion estimates that the industry will be worth $13.7 billion by 2020.

The top brands in this industry are now fighting to get the largest share of this market. Some brands have already been in the business for close to a century. However, newer companies are determined to expand their share of the global market.




The Brands Behind the International Zipper Wars

More than half of all pants in the world have the initials YKK on their zippers. Those initials represent the top brand that has been supplying zippers to the international market since 1934. Tadao Yoshida founded the YKK brand in Tokyo. The company has kept the international zipper market zipped up for years despite the presence of other small brands. YKK managed to outdo the top American producer Talon, which introduced zippers into the clothing industry. Talon was the largest producer of zippers in the world four decades ago but YKK managed to take over the international market.

The Japanese company supplies zippers to more than 71 countries. Since YKK gained its large market share, it seemed almost impossible for any brand to compete with it in the international market. However, the situation in the zipper market has changed in the recent years. Top manufacturers are now turning to cheaper zipper brands from China. SBS Zipper is the top Chinese brand that is competing with YKK brand.


SBS: The New Kid in Town

SBS is not exactly a new brand in the market. The company was established in 1984, but many people were unaware of it until top manufacturers started buying zippers from China. The main advantage of the SBS zipper is that it costs less than the YKK zipper. Although analysts consider SBS to be a newcomer, the company already supplies zippers to top brands such as H&M, North Face, and Mango. SBS started supplying affordable zippers to mass-market brands in China before entering the global market. The brand’s popularity has been growing over the years but it has intensified in the past decade.

The management of SBS has been keeping analysts guessing about the company’s strategies and targets. However, its goal to maintain its position as a global fastening force became clear in the past decade. SBS started invading markets that were previously considered strictly YKK territories.


Responses to the Tough Competition

In addition to offering cheaper alternatives, SBS has come up with unique zipper designs to beat its competitors. In response, YKK has shifted focus to its zipper design and product innovation. The legendary brand is now moving into the high-end luxury market. European brands such as Riri and Lampo have been dominating the high-end market, while the Asian brands fought over mass-market brands. However, the situation has changed now, because both SBS and YKK want a share of the high-end market as well.

The entrance of the Asian brands into the high-end luxury market may or may not affect the European brands. The market for zippers is still large, and all companies can get a share of the $13.7 billion dollars to keep them in business. However, the European brands must adjust their strategies in response to the increasing competition in order to remain relevant in the market.

One thing they must keep in mind is that YKK has an advantage over SBS and other international brands. That’s because the company not only manufactures quality zippers, but it also produces the machinery to make the zippers.



YKK Fights to Keep Its Advantages

Given the technical advantage that YKK has over other brands, it can easily enter into new markets and guarantee a constant supply of unique zippers to top clients. SBS should consider investing in the same technology to close the difference with YKK. YKK’s machinery and engineering division enables it to manufacture customized zippers.

SBS also faces the challenge of the negative perceptions that consumers have of Chinese brands. Many consumers associate Chinese products with low quality and imitations. SBS has acknowledged the challenge and adopted some of YKK’s strategies.

SBS has an internal research and development team that comes up with new customized designs. In addition, the company has more than 380 patents, and it has succeeded in adding high-profile brands to its list of top clients.

Zippers are no longer a mundane business, given the tough competition and high valuation of the sector. The competition is likely to intensify in the coming years as both Asian giants defend their position in the global market.