By  on July 11, 2007

A space squeeze on designer fashion has intensified competition for consumer purchases of those goods, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group.

"The designer market is as big as ever in terms of number of designers, but they are in fewer stores and less space," Cohen said. The merger of Federated and the May Department Stores Co. — now known as Macy's Inc. — alone slashed the availability of designer fashion items by about one-third, he estimated.

Polo Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein were among the five best-selling women's apparel names in the 12 months ended May 31, with Lauren ranking third and Klein fifth, according to NPD. Liz Claiborne led the list, Hanes was second and Jones New York was fourth.

Women spent roughly $104 billion on apparel overall during that 12-month stretch, up 4 percent from $99.4 billion a year earlier. About 7 percent of the spending, $7.3 billion, was for designer clothing.

Spurred by the availability of designer style at mass merchants like Target and H&M, more people are willing to pay for a particular designer name and quality, but they are also being more discriminating about such purchases, Cohen related. "People will buy Isaac [Mizrahi] at Target but will also feel pride in buying a higher-priced designer item," he said. "We're going to see a class structure exist in the designer [world]."

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