SUITS, DRESSES SHINE

Byline: Ira P. Schneiderman

NEW YORK--Suits and dresses are on a roll and outpacing the total women's apparel business.
While the overall women's market gained 7.1 percent in dollar sales in the first nine months of 1994, purchases of women's suits shot up 12.3 percent and dresses surged 11 percent compared to the same period in 1993, according to the NPD Consumer Purchase Panel.
NPD, a research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., tracks apparel purchases through a monthly survey of 16,000 nationally representative households.
Purchases of all women's tailored clothing, such as skirts and blazers, rose only 6.6 percent from January to September 1994, to $13.2 billion, up from $12.4 billion in the year-earlier period.
The size of the tailored separates market is nearly twice that of dresses and suits combined; therefore, it is easier to achieve greater percentage gains in the smaller markets. But the jump in dollar and unit sales of the single-ticket categories points to the continuing trend among consumers for value and convenience.
Dress purchases rang up more than $6 billion, up from $5.4 billion in 1993. The dress market grew to 163 million units from 145 million units in the first nine months of 1994.
Comparing the nine-month periods for 1992 and 1994, women's suit purchases rose 13.6 percent measured in dollars, to $2.1 billion, up from $1.9 billion.
Some 40 million women's suits were sold in the nine months of 1994, compared to 35 million in the 1993 period and 33 million in 1992.
Over the same two years, the total women's tailored clothing market grew from 390 million units to 428 million units, according to NPD.

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