NPD: Online Drives Apparel Sales Growth

Shifting consumer needs and an evolving retail marketplace were the driving factors behind the U.S. apparel industry’s overall sales growth in 2016, according to The NPD Group.

April 6, 2018

NPD: Online Drives Apparel Sales Growth

Last year’s U.S. apparel sales grew by 3 percent, reaching $218.7 billion.


Apparel dollar sales across women, men and children grew by 3 percent, reaching $218.7 billion. The industry also had positive overall performance with growth in most categories; however, it has struggled to exceed 3 percent sales growth since 2013.

Furthermore, the growth of online shopping was one of the most highlighted retail shifts last year. In 2011, the category only represented 11 percent of total U.S. men’s, women’s and children’s apparel sales; however, in 2016 the number rose to 19 percent.

The growth that occurred in the online, off-price and mass channels also came from a consumer focus on convenience, value and price, according to The NPD Group.

“The apparel industry is being pushed and pulled in different directions by consumers who are demanding something different, and looking to less traditional buying

channels to find it,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Maturing Millennials have a stronger shopping voice than ever before, but teens are showing a lack of passion for fashion, and Baby Boomers are feeling forgotten. The who, what, where, when and how of shopping are shifting as apparel consumers express their different desires and needs at retail.”

In addition, athleisure continued to be a top growing apparel segment last year, with an 11 percent increase that made it a $45.9 billion market. Sales of tailored clothing also increased by 5 percent, and dresses retained their rank as one of the top performing categories in overall sales and growth, with a 5 percent growth to reach $15.6 billion. The jeans category also rebounded to align with the industry’s 3 percent growth rate, reaching $15.3 billion in sales.

“Amidst all the change there is one constant in apparel sales performance–the apparel industry isn’t delivering a product experience that will compel consumers to increase their spend,” says Cohen. “Consumers may be driving the recent trends in apparel, but retail needs to respond and take ownership of the business back in order to capture the greater growth opportunities that exist.”  

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