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The NPD Group Reports Women Choose Quality Over Quantity Women’s Apparel Sales Increase And Outpace Men’s For The First Time In Several Years

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Port Washington, NY, April 23, 2013 – The NPD Group, a global information company, reports that following several years of lost momentum compared to the men’s market, the U.S. women’s apparel market is back on top. In contrast to the U.S. men’s apparel market, which only grew 1 percent with total sales of $57 billion dollars, women’s grew 3 percent in 2012, with total dollar sales of $111 billion. Sales increases for women were driven by higher priced apparel, as the average selling price was up 5 percent, while unit volume was down 2 percent.

While there was growth from four out of the five top women’s apparel categories – knit shirts, dresses, jeans, and woven shirts – there were two stand-out categories that grew double-digits in 2012.

What did women buy in 2012?

Category Percentage Change vs. Prior Year
Dresses 11%
Jeans 11%

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service

“Dresses have been gaining in sales over the past couple of years but the difference of 2012 compared to the previous years is in the way women are wearing them,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “This year women sported more dresses on the weekends as casual wear and jeans during the week to work, which helped propel the sales of jeans.”

The stores that benefited the most from the sales of dresses and jeans were department stores and specialty stores.

Where did women shop in 2012?

Category Category / Channel Percentage Change vs. Prior Year
Jeans Specialty Stores 19%
Dresses Department Stores 11%

Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Consumer Tracking Service

“These channel results demonstrate that women are willing to shop in upscale stores that cater to their individual needs and tastes,” said Cohen, “The results also show us that women are investing in their wardrobe by buying less, spending more, and expecting their clothes to be more versatile.”   

In 2012, even though women made fewer apparel buying visits* at brick-and-mortar stores and online, down 6 percent compared to the prior year**, websites brought in 14.3 billion in sales, up 13 percent from the prior year. While many women made apparel purchases at department stores, specialty stores, and online, they shopped less at national chains.

“With less disposable income, women are more selective in their purchases so retailers must really try to grab their attention,” said Cohen. “Retailers and manufacturers must continue to educate women on how to put together looks but businesses also need to invest in renovations to enhance the shopping experience at brick-and-mortar and online. No two women shop the same.”

*Buying visits occur when the consumer makes a purchase from a store or website.  Buying visits are different from dollar or unit sales.

**Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Shopping Activity

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