Though store closings are not considered new news, there was a plethora of retailers officially announcing their closures earlier this year, including a number of industry leaders. And while businesses need to adjust to having less retail space, it will take a toll on overall apparel sales during this course correction.
The closing of The Sports Authority stores was called the largest failure ever seen in the sports industry by my colleague, Matt Powell. The Sports Authority represented more than 10 percent of the sports industry’s apparel and equipment sales. What was not anticipated after doors closed was that some of its business would simply evaporate. Some business went to adjacent big box retailers, some went to ecommerce, but there was about 20 to 25 percent that just disappeared.
So what will consumers do when some of their favorite apparel stores begin to close locations? In a recent survey, 58 percent* of respondents told NPD they would seek out the particular store, either at another physical location or on that retailer’s website. A third* said they will turn to another retailer. The remaining 9 percent of responses indicate an uncertain fate (six percent* said they will not shop for apparel, and the rest didn’t select any of the options), even before their store actually closed and could produce another sales evaporation story.
One channel that stands to gain during these changing times is off-price. Nearly six out of every 10 (56 percent)** consumers who purchase apparel, buy clothing at off-price stores. Those who shop off-price for clothing spent five percent more per purchase, bought thirty-three more apparel items per year, and visited twelve more apparel retailers per year. This consumer is passionate about their apparel purchase and will cross-shop – eighty-five percent** of off-price buyers also purchase apparel from department and specialty stores. But with fewer apparel store options on the horizon this consumer may start to dedicate more of their wallet to the off-price channel.
While retailers hope a consumer will remain loyal, the landscape is changing. Doors are closing and apparel brands are losing shelf space. Deep discounting has become a reality in today’s apparel industry. Retailers are looking beyond omni-channel and becoming more personal. Stores that not only recognize but also adapt quickly to each of these changes will be the ones to head in the right direction and ultimately prevail.
*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / February 2017 Omnibus
**Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Checkout TrackingTM, December 2016**