Byline: Ira P. Schneiderman

NEW YORK--The march of the mass market continues.
Mass merchants expanded their share of apparel business in 1994, ringing up just under half of all such sales nationwide.
In the women's sector, which grew at an overall rate of 6.2 percent last year, mass merchants easily outperformed the market by adding $2.4 billion in sales, a 9 percent increase, according to NPD Group Inc.'s Consumer Purchase Panel.
Mass outlets--including discounters, factory outlet stores, warehouse clubs, off-price stores and national moderate chains such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and J.C. Penney Co.--recorded total apparel sales of more than $64 billion, or 48 percent of the $135 billion market in 1994.
The results represent a 1 percent increase in market share and additional sales of $4.2 billion over the prior year.
In 1993, mass retailers achieved apparel sales of $60 billion, or about 47 percent of the $129 billion business, according to the NPD Consumer Purchase Panel.
At discount stores such as Wal-Mart Stores, Bradlees and Caldor, total apparel sales rose 7.7 percent in 1994, slightly under the 8.3 percent growth of 1993, according to NPD.
However, excluding the three largest discounters--Wal-Mart, Kmart Corp. and Target, a division of Dayton Hudson Corp.--apparel sales at all other discount stores increased only 2.9 percent last year, NPD said.
Michael Hand, vice president of NPD, said the sales growth for the three major discounters mirrored an industrywide retail trend that showed the large, national store chains increasing their market share at the expense of smaller, regional operators.
"It's true that the mass merchandisers gained share, but I think the more significant thing that's going on is that the big people are gaining share," he said. "When you look at department stores, the major ones--except for Mervyn's--have all done well at the expense of the other department stores."
Discounter Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer and on course to hit its $100 billion sales goal this year, led the way among all retailers in 1994 with double-digit sales gains in apparel, according to NPD data.
And the Bentonville, Ark.-based giant is bound to become an even greater force in apparel in 1995 with the addition of more brand names and an exclusive Kathie Lee Collection using television's Kathie Lee Gifford as the spokeswoman.
Last year's apparel gains at Wal-Mart were fueled by brands such as White Stag in the casual area, which did a "gangbusters" business, a Wal-Mart executive has said. Wal-Mart also added Faded Glory denim and Catalina sportswear and activewear this spring.
Undoubtedly, though, the Kathie Lee Collection is destined to become the star performer at Wal-Mart this year after its February rollout to 2,150 stores. The collection, including dresses, sportswear and accessories, is projected by some industry observers to easily exceed $250 million in retail sales this year and plans to expand the collection into intimate apparel, accessories and footwear are being considered.
With the Kathie Lee line, Wal-Mart is hoping it has finally found a way to attract the career customer, who has been a tough sell for the discounter in the past.
Penney's, a moderate department store, also showed double-digit gains for apparel in 1994, according to NPD. NPD did not release the increases for specific retailers.
A portion of Penney's success is due to its booming private label denim line, Original Arizona Jeans Co., which does more than $500 million wholesale in three categories, the retailer has said.
With aggressive expansion, Penney's estimates it can raise its total denim bottoms business to $2 billion annually in this decade, according to Thomas D. Hutchens, president of Penney's worldwide merchandising.
Penney's also plans to push harder in other apparel categories with an eye on becoming number one in all areas of the store.
Despite its declining earnings and market share, Kmart "did OK last year in terms of apparel sales," Hand of NPD said. He declined to provide specific results for the nation's second-largest discounter, but said women's apparel outperformed men's at Kmart in 1994.
Kmart has been hard-pressed to match Wal-Mart's staggering growth over the last several years, and its longtime president and chief executive officer, Joseph E. Antonini, resigned late last month under pressure from shareholders.
Antonini was credited with leading Kmart's attempt to build its fashion image and launching the private label Jaclyn Smith line 10 years ago. Kmart's board has established a three-member committee to search for a successor to Antonini. Top executives from the discount sector are reportedly on the list of prospective candidates.
Total women's apparel sales rose 6.2 percent to $71.8 billion last year from $67.6 billion in 1993, NPD said.
With sales of $29.2 billion, mass retailers also raised their women's market share to 41 percent in 1994. Mass retailers had sales of $26.8 billion in 1993, or about 40 percent of the women's market, according to NPD.
Following is NPD's breakdown of women's apparel purchases at retail outlets in the mass market sector for 1994 compared with 1993.
Off-price retailers showed a 13.5 percent increase for women's apparel sales, which totaled $4.9 billion, compared with $4.3 billion a year earlier. However, the increase was spurred by the opening of more than 250 new units last year, and some industry analysts believe the sector has peaked in terms of market share and is on the verge of restructuring and consolidation.
At discount stores, women's sales rose 9 percent to $12.1 billion from $11.1 billion.
Factory outlets showed a 4.9 percent gain to $2.4 billion from $2.3 billion in 1993. The rate of increase at factory outlets last year was significantly below the 1993 increase of 19.3 percent.
At warehouse clubs, women's sales fell 9.3 percent to $377 million from $416 million.
Catalogs and direct mail also showed a slight drop in sales, which fell to $5.2 billion from $5.3 billion.
NPD Group Inc., Port Washington, N.Y., tracks apparel purchases through point-of-sale data collected from several leading mass merchants and department stores as well as a monthly survey of 16,000 nationally representative households.
According to NPD, sales of women's apparel at department stores rose 7.2 percent in 1994 to $17.8 billion from $16.6 billion. However, among the top 50 department stores, women's sales rose 11 percent.
Hand said he believes the largest chains are growing at a faster rate than their smaller competitors because shoppers are no longer spending a lot of time in malls.
"They're going to the store and making a purchase," he said. "That favors the big department stores, and it favors Kmart and Wal-Mart."
The total apparel market grew by 4.9 percent last year, led by a 6.2 percent increase in the women's business, according to NPD. The women's sector accounts for about 53 percent of all apparel purchases.
Department stores' share of all apparel sales was flat in 1994 at about 22.7 percent of the $135 billion market, NPD said.
Department stores achieved a 24.7 percent market share for women's apparel in 1994 with sales about $17.7 billion, according to NPD. This compared with a 24.5 percent market share and sales of $16.6 billion in 1993.

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