NEW YORK — A pent-up desire for fresh fashion is driving a 14 percentage point surge in the share of American women who intend to purchase apparel, accessories or swimwear this month, compared with April 2002, according to data disclosed Monday by STS Market Research.

Also stoking demand, said STS chairman and chief executive officer Art Spar, is the consumer’s growing confidence, which, in turn, has been boosted by prospects for the end of the war in Iraq.

About 76 percent of American women say this month they’ll buy something to wear, up from 62 percent a year ago and 70 percent in March. It’s the second straight month demand has increased against the year-ago period.

The 70 percent of women who said they’d buy apparel, accessories or swimwear last month was up 9 basis points from the 61 percent who said they’d do so in March 2002.

Demand this month also marks growth from the 71 percent of women who said they intended to buy something to wear during December 2002, and represents still stronger advances over the 56 and 59 percent who said they’d do so this January and February, respectively.

These findings are based on the responses of STS’ AccuPanel, a representative group of 10,000 men and women age 13 and older, who also report their actual purchases of sportswear each month.

"People were pragmatic about apparel purchasing in 2002 — it was a very dreary year for fashion," Spar noted. "The consumer is ready to spend on some new looks."

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