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Holiday Wardrobe Malfunction?

Dec 21, 2016
Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst ;
Apparel

The first half of this holiday shopping season proved to be a challenging start for the apparel industry. Despite early consumer intentions pointing to apparel as an area of increased spending this holiday season – a 7 percent increase in planned spending over 2015* – that spending doesn’t appear to have happened yet. NPD’s Holiday Shopping Bag 2016 Weekly Report has shown declines in apparel sales from week- to- week when compared to the same time last year, with few exceptions.

Over Thanksgiving week, apparel sales were not as low as earlier in the season, but still down 2 percent against last year and failing to gain momentum against the competition of more exciting and innovative categories for holiday. There were several apparel categories that gained some momentum during this peak week. Within women's dresses, swimwear, socks, and workout wear for women, the big winner. In men's apparel, it was a trip back to traditions with pajamas garnering the most growth for the week, followed by tailored clothing (includes dress and sport shirts, suits and jackets).

In the week after Thanksgiving – Cyber Week – apparel sales fell 5 percent below the same week in 2015. Abundant and deep promotions certainly got the attention of consumers, but it wasn’t enough. Apparel got a slight boost the following week (ending December 10), during the usual holiday lull, with a 1 percent increase in dollar sales compared to last year. Women’s and men’s outerwear were among the top performers, so the weather forecast likely played the biggest role in this shift.

The apparel industry has discounted themselves right off any possible path toward growth. This, combined with the lack of a ‘must have’ fashion item keeps apparel chasing last year’s results. While apparel is not alone in this holiday’s conundrum, the category has a prominent role in holiday retail performance, with 66 percent of consumers planning to purchase clothing during the season*.

There is still time to avoid a complete holiday wardrobe malfunction. In the final stretch of holiday shopping, which typically results in a sales peak close to that of Thanksgiving/Black Friday week, consumers will continue to look for deals, but they are also looking for those last-minute special gifts. The emphasis at retail needs to move toward delivering the products consumers are looking for, not just the price they are looking for.

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Holiday Shopping Bag 2016 Weekly Report
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey

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