||Apparel Industry Generating Solid Early Returns in 2011
The apparel market for both women and men, which enjoyed a healthy resurgence in 2010, has continued to perform well in the early months of 2011, according to research by The NPD Group.
The women's apparel market ended 2010 up 2.9 percent and has stayed in positive territory for the most recent 3-month period (ending February 2011), up 2.8 percent.
Which categories are benefiting from the return of the female consumer? Marshal Cohen, NPD's chief industry analyst, says, "The big story here is the return of denim."
After posting declines in the middle of 2010, women's jeans finished the year up 2.6 percent, but during the 3 months ending in February, women's jeans sales were up almost 20 percent.
"The increase is primarily due to women buying more pairs of jeans and at higher price points," noted Cohen. "And with the influx of new styles this year, women may just need a few more pairs."
A relatively new category in women's apparel is jeggings. The sales of women's jeggings took off last year and finished 2010 up over 200 percent.
"As we see new jeans silhouettes gain in popularity we may see jeggings growth slow," said Cohen.
Other strong performers in the women's apparel market in 2010 were skirts, up 15 percent and their complement, tights, up over 30 percent.
Dresses also performed well in 2010 but most recently their overall sales are showing declines. For the 3 months ending in February, sales of dresses in department stores gained 4 share points, dress sales in national chain stores gained almost 2 share points and the online channel gained almost 3 points. This would suggest that women are still interested in dresses even if they are "out-of –season."
"Retailers need to really learn what consumers want and when they want it," said Cohen. "Gone are the days when all consumers shop months in advance and buy the early trends months before they will wear the products. Consumers today want more 'buy now, wear now' product. Retailers and manufacturers need to understand this and make the necessary adjustments."
Some areas in women's apparel to watch in the coming year are intimates and outerwear.
"The sub-categories within women's intimates have displayed 'oppositional need cycles' and that cycle will likely continue," noted Cohen.
Bra sales were declining in early 2010 but during the 3 months ending in February, bra sales were up 5.5 percent. Sales of women's panties displayed the opposite cycle. Their sales posted growth early in 2010 and then during the 3 months ending in February fell by 7 percent.
"This is a clear example of how needs dictate purchases," said Cohen. "Women were building their bra wardrobes early in 2010 and panties took a 'back seat.' Then as the bra market slowed with less innovation and new products, the ignored panties category introduced some newness and the female consumers' pent-up demand as well as their need got them spending there again," Cohen noted.
The other category that bears watching for 2011 is outerwear. For all of 2010 outerwear posted 6.2 percent growth in dollars and 6.9 percent in units. During its peak season outerwear posted double digit sales growth.
"Outerwear has become a key area of focus for the consumer. Not only do they need to update their outerwear but they will be motivated by the latest technology offerings to purchase new coats and jackets," said Cohen. "Outerwear will likely continue to see growth throughout the year, even as the weather warms up."
How the men are doing
For all of 2010, the men's apparel market finished up 3.3 percent. For the most recent 3-month time period, ending February 2011, the men's apparel market was up 12 percent compared to the same time period last year.
"This is a very healthy growth rate and a clear sign men are looking to rebuild their wardrobes," said Cohen. "Based on what we are seeing in the recent market data the categories that are going to prosper are those that are a combination of basics and replenishment as well as some impulse and fashion categories."
The basics categories like men's underwear and socks were up 14 and 11 percent in dollar volume sales, respectively, for the 3-month period ending in February. Outerwear and fleecewear (sweat shirts and pants) also posted growth in that same time period. Both grew over 30 percent.
"Not only are men getting their basics back in order," said Cohen, "but it looks as though men are starting to spend outside of basics and join in the overall consumer trends that are focused on getting healthier and buying more comfortable lifestyle products."
As for the men's "dress-up" categories, men's tailored clothing (suits, suit separates, jackets & sportcoats) was up over 30 percent for the 3 months ending in February, dress shirts were up 9.7 percent, and men's neckwear was up 26 percent.
"Men are re-discovering the importance of 'dressing for success.' Whether it's for social or career reasons, men are displaying a desire to upgrade their wardrobes and use dressing-up as a vehicle to demonstrate the importance of both," said Cohen. "Keep in mind that the menswear market was the first to show signs of decline as the recession began and was one of the last to return, but now it's coming on strong, primarily due to a high level of pent-up demand."
Where is this menswear being purchased? During the 3 months ending in February, the specialty store channel garnered the biggest dollar share of the market with 30 percent, followed by mass merchants (16 percent) and department stores (15.7 percent). However, the channels posting the highest dollar volume growth for that time period were the online and factory outlet channels.
"Look for online, factory outlets, and specialty stores to continue gaining market share and post growth throughout 2011. These stores have done a good job of retaining their customers during the recession and now, as the consumer is feeling more confident, they are starting to get them to buy on impulse which is a key ingredient for continued growth," said Cohen.
Where do brands factor into the men's apparel market? National brands are gaining market share and ended 2010 up 2 share points and continue to post slight gains in the 3 months ending in February. National brands represent 45 percent of all men's apparel sales. Private label brands hold a 32 percent share and designer brands represent a 9.5 percent share.
"That's currently where the market stands; however, I see evidence of an emerging trend that I call 'Brand Renaissance,'" said Cohen. "That is to say that consumers will be looking for their tried-and-true brands over the sea of all the relatively unknown private label brands. I think we will see designers battling it out with one another to hold on to their share of the market," added Cohen. "Menswear has an opportunity to really generate some growth in 2011 and it will be the brands that understand this new brand equation as well as those who know how to play the 'brand' card' who will benefit."
(Source: The NPD Group, 04/05/11)
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