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Apparel Sales Dip Slightly in Select Groups

Athleisure and online apparel sales were also up over 2016.

NORTH AMERICA–U.S. apparel sales declined 2 percent to $215 billion in 2017. However, Millennials, athleisure and e-commerce continued to be the main drivers of the category, according to The NPD Group.

According to the group’s findings, Millennials had the highest apparel growth rate of all generations at 4 percent, representing $2 billion in incremental sales; however, growth among the demographic decreased for the first time in two years.

Despite a slower growth rate, Gen Xers also showed an increase in apparel dollar sales in 2017. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers, which accounted for close to 20 percent of annual apparel dollar sales, and Gen Z, which generated almost a third of total apparel dollar sales, both experienced declines in overall spending for 2017.

“The apparel industry is being challenged to respond to the latest changes being driven by the broader consumer and retail environment,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group. “The rapid pace of change in Millennial consumption is one major change that points back to the importance of evolving consumer segmentation. The future of the apparel business depends on manufacturers and retailers refocusing on the current needs of each critical consumer segment.”

Furthermore, athleisure continued on its growth trajectory, although not making as steep a rise as in past years –dollar sales increased 2 percent to $48 billion, which amounts to 22 percent of total industry sales. Sales of both men’s and women’s athleisure grew in 2017, but women’s athleisure was the strength behind the category’s growth, reaching $21.9 billion in sales with a 4 percent increase over 2016.

E-commerce had a relatively slow progression in apparel compared to other industries, from 16 percent of sales in 2014 to 21 percent in 2017. (Brick-and-mortar stores still represent more than three-quarters of annual industry dollars.)

Online apparel sales also grew 4 percent over 2016, following double-digit growth in the prior two years. According insights from NPD’s Checkout, the purchase frequency of online apparel consumers increased in the last year, but they spent 5 percent less per receipt.

“Categories like active apparel bottoms, undershirts, and swimwear–which indicate the consumer’s concentration on comfort, the staples, and niche products–are the few sources of consistent, long-term growth in today’s apparel market,” says Cohen. “Retail is changing, the consumer is changing, and every industry must understand where spending habits have moved and adapt to the shifting market dynamics that are impacting their business.”


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