Apparel's Future Will Be Driven by Sportswear's Evolution, Reports NPD

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Activewear continues to grow, but casual fashion with special features is driving industry growth

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“Today’s definition of everyday apparel has no clear boundaries, and this is the approach today’s apparel manufacturers and retailers need to take,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group.

While performance-oriented activewear has gotten all of the press, it’s casual clothing with an emphasis on comfort and special features that will drive sales, says a new NPD report. Despite its robust growth over the last few years, activewear is still a relatively small portion of the total U.S. men’s and women’s apparel market. According to The NPD Group, non-active casual-wear represents more than half of the industry’s annual sales – $103 billion in the 12 months ending June 2019.

“Fashion’s future depends on casual clothing,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group. “But, today’s casual fashion is different from what was once referred to as ‘sportswear’ in the American fashion industry.”

Consumers are looking for their clothing to do more. Dollar sales of non-active casual-wear apparel that has special features like stain-resistance, wicking, antimicrobial, and wrinkle-resistance grew 7% percent in the past year, with nearly every applicable category contributing to the growth.

Today’s consumer is mixing and matching their clothing styles, price-points, brands, and retailers. Non-active casual-wear* is maintaining its place in the consumer’s closet. Wardrobe staples like casual pants, golf/polo/rugby shirts, and jackets and blazers are making a comeback. Over a quarter of the spending in this segment comes from Gen X (39-54 year olds), up 2% in the past year.

Specialty and department stores are at the top in terms of overall sales of casual-wear apparel, with 29% and 15% of the market respectively. But off-price retailers aren’t far behind with 14% of the year’s dollar sales. Growth is being driven by off-price and manufacturer-owned/direct-to-consumer stores, illustrating changes in the ways in which consumers shop and the new apparel retail landscape.

“Today’s definition of everyday apparel has no clear boundaries, and this is the approach today’s apparel manufacturers and retailers need to take,” added Cohen. “It’s about delivering clothing that solves consumer problems, while staying true to your brand.”

*Excludes activewear, tailored apparel, outerwear, socks, underwear, undershirts, and bras
Source: The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service, 12 months ending June 2019

About The NPD Group
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. We have offices in 27 cities worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, travel retail, games, and watches / jewelry. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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Janine Marshall
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