By  on May 10, 2011

Get ready for the bounce.

New denim silhouettes and washes are reinvigorating what many retailers described as a decelerating denim trend last year.

According to denim vendors and retailers, as the economy improves, the female customer is coming back — and not just to replace the jeans she already has, but to add new, fashion-forward looks to her closet.

“Business overall is doing much better than our retailers have planned, be it at department stores or specialty stores,” said Marc Crossman, president and chief executive of Joe’s Jeans Inc. “It really comes down to a magnitude shift…now there are some major trend changes that I think will have an impact on that mix shift.”

New Sixties- and Seventies-inspired silhouettes, white jeans and special washes are pulling the category back to relevancy, which is helping to “reignite” the premium denim market, said Crossman, who noted that like his competitors, his company is adding newness with wide legs and flares available in “all flavors, be it fabric or washes.”

One “standout” offered by Crossman is skinny jeans with a micro-flare that retails for $172 to $178 and combines two hot trends.

Finding new life at the high end of the denim market is critical. Last year, a lack of fashion inspiration contributed to a 6.4 percent decline in sales of women’s jeans at $50 and above, to $1.36 billion from $1.45 billion in 2009. Along with growth in lower-price jeggings and a highly promotional pricing climate, especially in the fourth quarter, it pulled average price points for women’s jeans down to $22.76 from $23.34 the prior year, according to The NPD Group, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm.

The more recent trends are more encouraging. For the 12 months through February, dollar volume was up 3.2 percent to $8.75 billion and units were up 5.2 percent to 383.8 million, NPD said. That still left average prices continuing their decline, at $22.79 for the most recent 12 months as compared with $23.23 in the prior-year period.

NPD figures leave little doubt that specialty stores are increasing their already commanding market share in an environment where customers want more than what they bought last year. With their women’s jeans sales up 14.8 percent to $3.25 billion in the most recent 12 months, specialty stores commanded 42.6 percent of the women’s denim market, up from 38.3 percent. Department stores, national chains, mass merchants, off-price retailers and even direct marketers and e-tail pure plays all experienced declines.


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