NPD Reports on the U.S. Apparel Market 2009: Declines Posted But There Are Positive Signs

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According to The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, the U.S. apparel market while still in negative territory for 2009 is showing some signs of life.

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Between 'frugal fatigue' and pent up demand, the consumer is spending, but we will likely see a lull in February and March as they wait for their credit card balances to recover from holiday and January sales.

According to The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, the U.S. apparel market while still in negative territory for 2009 is showing some signs of life.

The total U.S. apparel market posted a 5.1 percent decline for all of 2009 but in the fourth quarter of the year there were some signs that the women’s apparel market might be starting to recover.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, the women’s market slowed its decline and bucked the total apparel trend with only a 3 percent decline in that quarter. While still not positive growth, it is a sign that momentum is shifting. “For the fashion industry this is a very important sign. As go women shoppers, so goes the total fashion market,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc., “Women represent just over 50 percent of total fashion market sales and they account for almost 25 percent more in the purchases they make for others…without them a true recovery will not occur.”

Another sign that things are moving in the right direction can be seen in other demographic breaks.

Apparel sales attributed to middle income consumers, those with incomes of $25,000 to $75,000, according to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service shows that their purchases for 2009 are even with the purchases they made last year. “To put it in perspective,” says Cohen, “the total market declined 5 percent while middle income consumers held fast. That means the recovery is beginning to show up in the apparel market for the very critical middle income consumer.”

Still, however, upper income consumers and teens (with no income) are still showing the deepest declines (down 9 and 20 percent respectively).

There are some important apparel categories that performed well in 2009. Those are: jeans +3.5 percent, dresses +2.3 percent, bras +1.1 percent, tights +2.4 percent, and men's underwear tops +11 percent.

"Don't be fooled into thinking that we are out of the woods, just yet.” cautioned Cohen, “Between 'frugal fatigue' and pent up demand, the consumer is spending, but we will likely see a lull in February and March as they wait for their credit card balances to recover from holiday and January sales. Then, come the change in the weather, late March and April, consumers will likely be assessing their wardrobes and opening their wallets a little bit, again."

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit npd.com, or follow us Twitter at twitter.com/marshalcohen and twitter.com/npdfashion and become a fan of Marshal Cohen at facebook.com/npdmarshalcohen.

CONTACT:
Beth Boyle
The NPD Group, Inc.
516-625-4603
beth(dot)boyle(at)npd(dot)com

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