It’s been a healthy year for the apparel industry, which enjoyed $214.2 billion in total channel sales in the 12 months ending in June 2015—a YOY increase of 2.8 percent. What drove that growth? In case you missed it, we’re in the midst of an activewear golden age. Consumers want to dress in a way that supports a healthy lifestyle, and this has been reflected in robust sales growth of active bottoms, swimwear, outerwear, and socks. But it’s worth noting that conventional categories like suits, tights, dress shirts, and dresses have also seen strong gains in the past year.
Perhaps the most striking trend is the shift to e-commerce: apparel brick-and-mortar sales were relatively flat (down slightly by 0.7 percent YOY), while online sales skyrocketed more than 19 percent. This indicates consumers are more and more willing to buy online as brands offer faster shipping, liberal return policies, and virtual ways to better experience and assess items online. What does this mean for brick-and-mortars? They’re going to need to step up their in-store game to meet increasing customer expectations, be it integrating virtual technologies into store displays, building true store “experiences,” or blurring the lines by creating a less gendered shopping environment for consumers.
You’re probably tired of hearing about them, but it’s impossible to discuss the health of the apparel industry without acknowledging the role Millennials play in its success. Fashion categories are growing faster among younger generations: Gen Y consumers increased their apparel spend by 7 percent, while the 35+ segment decreased spending by 2 percent. And Millennials invest more in apparel than they do in beauty, health, footwear, or accessories. Even the jeans category, which has seen a tough past couple of years, can find hope in this younger segment. These consumers are buying new jeans at a faster rate than all other age groups.