Growth in U.S. Apparel Sales Driven by Smaller Regional Markets, Reports NPD

Top U.S markets are gaining online sales, but losing the in-store impulse purchase activity responsible for sales growth

Port Washington, NY, April 20, 2015 – New York and Los Angeles are the largest U.S. markets in terms of apparel sales, but smaller markets such as Orlando and Washington, D.C. are the top markets driving both growth rate and dollar volume increases for the industry, according to global information company, The NPD Group. These two top markets had strong performance across in-store and online channels. Among the top 25 designated market areas (DMA) in the U.S., online dollar sales of apparel increased for most, but only a handful grew in-store sales in the 12 months ending February 2015.

Total apparel industry dollar sales grew 2 percent in the 12 months ending February 2015, but sales of apparel purchased in a store declined 2 percent. The downward trend of in-store sales was true for most of the top 10 U.S. markets. Washington, D.C. is the only one with notable in-store sales growth (+14 percent).

“The big regions are no longer leading apparel industry sales growth,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “When New York and Los Angeles don’t even make it into the top 10 list of DMAs driving apparel growth, we have a big opportunity gap in the market. We need to understand the cause in order for the apparel industry to regain traction moving forward.”

Online sales of apparel tell a different regional story. Overall, this segment, which now accounts for 17 percent of industry dollars, increased 19 percent in the 12 months ending February 2015. When looking at the top U.S. markets (NY, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth) each grew online sales by double digits. However, the biggest growth is, yet again, coming from smaller markets.

In most cases, the DMAs that are outperforming the industry as a whole are also the ones with more dramatic in-store sales growth than online sales gains. Online shopping delivers great convenience to the consumer, but it cannot yet deliver the level of impulse purchasing that in-store shopping can. Impulse purchases of apparel occur for 32 percent of in-store sales, while online only generates impulsive purchases 22 percent of the time. 

“Impulse purchases are the big growth driver, so the strategy of driving traffic to websites needs to exist in tandem with efforts to drive traffic to the stores,” added Cohen. “Regardless of regional market size, or method of purchase, the apparel industry needs to engage consumers with something new and different – something they can’t find everywhere.”

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service, 12 months ending February 2015

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