My dad has always been a style icon to me. From his bell bottoms and platforms of the 1970s, to his punk leather biker jacket in the 1980s, he has been at the forefront of every major trend. Naturally, when I went home during Labor Day weekend for a BBQ, he was sporting sneakers, joggers, and a tie-dyed sweatshirt. Clothes have always been important to my Boomer dad, and it appears that he is not alone. As vaccines began to roll out this spring, and consumer confidence increased, Boomers in the U.S., age 57 to 75, increased their apparel spending as they headed back out – more so than any other generation.
According to the Consumer Tracking Service from NPD, between January and July 2021, apparel dollar sales among Boomers increased by 28%, compared to pre-pandemic 2019. Although most generations are spending more in the apparel market, so far this year, spending by Boomers rose five times faster than Millennials, and over twice as fast as Gen Z. Digging into the data the top-growing Boomer categories over the past 12 months have been a mixed bag of comfort, sportswear, sleepwear, and basics – indicating that they are looking to refresh their entire wardrobes.
Looking at where the Boomer generation is buying apparel also tells an interesting story. In 2019, before the pandemic hit, 82% of Boomers’ apparel purchases came from physical stores. More than any other generation, Boomers had to learn and adapt to online shopping when stores closed in 2020. As retailers reopened in 2021, Boomers returned to stores, with in-store purchases still making up majority of sales in the year ending July 2021; however, the online shopping habits developed during the pandemic will not be abandoned entirely. For the past year, $1 out of every $5 spent on apparel online came from a Boomer’s wallet, and their online apparel spending grew faster than any other generation.
Brands and retailers love to focus on Millennials and Gen Z vying for their share of wallet, but Boomers should not be overlooked. Fashion is something that defined this generation, representing their beliefs, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Maybe this is part of the reason why Boomers like my dad hold tightly to their fashionable roots and, amidst a challenging time in our history, maintain a steadfast focus on fashion.