NEW YORK--The mass market just doesn't quit when it comes to women's apparel. The mass segment, already home to the world's largest retailers, keeps gnawing away at the women's apparel market, gobbling another 1.7 percent of the total in the first six months of this year. While 1.7 percent might not seem like a lot, it represents sales of $1.4 billion in a six months--sales that might otherwise have gone to department or specialty stores. Sales of all apparel at mass merchants--including discounters, off-pricers, factory outlets, warehouse clubs and national chains--topped $27.2 billion in the first half, or 46 percent of the $59 billion spent on apparel during the period, according to the NPD Consumer Purchase Panel, a research firm in Port Washington, N.Y. The dollar sales gain represents 1 percent in terms of market share, or $3.3 billion. The driving force behind the gain was purchases of women's apparel, which grew 6.9 percent to $33.3 billion in the first half, up $2.1 billion. The mass market captured 40.2 percent of these purchases, up from 38.5 percent, rising to $13.4 billion from $12 billion a year ago. In the January-to-June period, compared with last year, women's apparel purchases grew the most at off-pricers, which registered a 17 percent gain. Discounters were next, with a 14 percent increase. Specialty chains were a close third, at 13 percent. But when all specialty stores were averaged together, the group showed a gain of just 4.7 percent. Total apparel purchases grew by 6 percent in the first half of this year over the first half of 1993, but mass merchants--with the exception of factory outlets--outperformed the market as a whole. Among NPD's findings: Discounters led the pack, with all apparel purchases up 10.3 percent to $11.9 billion. Apparel purchases were up 9.7 percent at warehouse clubs, to $457 million. Apparel purchases rose 9.3 percent at off-pricers to $4.3 billion. Purchases of all apparel were up 6.2 percent at the national chains--Sears, Roebuck; J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward--to $8.6 billion. (Although Penney's considers itself a moderate department store, not a mass merchant, NPD includes it in the category of national chains.) Factory outlets were the laggards, with a rise of just 2 percent to $1.9 billion. For all apparel, department stores registered a gain of 5.6 percent to $1.4 billion from $1.3 billion in 1993. All specialty stores gained 3.7 percent to $10.6 billion, with specialty chains up 15.7 percent to $5.3 billion. Consumer purchases of all apparel via direct mail gained 1.5 percent, accounting for $3.5 billion in the first six months.
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