NEW YORK — As fashion retailers scramble to find the next rich niche to mine, four brands, Liz Claiborne, Hanes, Jones New York and Talbots are proving among the most popular across two generations: Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
The big four were among the most frequently purchased brands for people aged 40 to 60, as well as those aged 28 to 39, in the 12 months ended Feb. 28, based on data provided to WWD by NPD Fashionworld.
The finding is curious not only because of the difference in ages of the two groups, but because of their different stages in life.
The Xers are poised to take their careers to the next level at the same time their growing family needs are prompting compromises in some of the choices they make for themselves, noted Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a research company based in Port Washington, N.Y. “They are entering a key life stage change and their favorite brands reflect that, whether it’s a different pair of jeans or a suit,” he said.
For the Boomers, in contrast, fashion purchases are being sparked primarily by emotion rather than need. Despite closets often bulging with clothing, Cohen observed the group hasn’t stopped spending on apparel, but their purchasing isn’t unbridled. Drawing a comparison between the Millennials, Xers and Boomers, the latter generation, Cohen said, “has the highest level of discretionary spending, but is probably the most cautious in their apparel spending.”
During the 12 months ended Feb. 28, apparel spending by Boomer women grew at less than half the rate of spending by their Millennial and Gen X counterparts. The Boomers spent about $29.2 billion, or 2.4 percent more than the $28.5 billion of the previous year, NPD Fashionworld found. The Xers, by comparison, increased their outlays by 6.1 percent for purchases of $19.1 billion, versus $18 billion in the prior-year period, while the Millennials upped their expenditures by 5.4 percent to spending of $41.3 billion, against $39.2 billion.
Despite the current trend, and fashion’s traditional focus on young consumers, the Boomers could well become the heaviest purchasers of apparel in five years. “By 2010, the biggest growth will come from people ages 45 and up,” Cohen said of a group expected to make career changes, return to school and engage in a broader range of leisure endeavors — which could spur a desire to refresh their wardrobes.
This story first appeared in the June 1, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.