NEW YORK — Is the consumer’s love affair with denim starting to fade? Maybe so. A new study from STS Market Research shows consumers bought fewer pairs of jeans and more casual slacks during the first quarter than they did a year earlier.

"Having previously purchased a lot of jeans, women are turning their attention to casual pants and thus are building wardrobes and outfits around these types of bottoms," said Art Spar, chairman of Cambridge, Mass.-based STS Market Research. Capris, flat-front styles and regular-fit pants gained ground, while sales of baggy and relaxed-fit styles, and pants with cargo pockets and wide legs slowed down, Spar noted.

Roughly 16 percent of the items women bought in the first quarter were casual slacks and 12 percent were jeans, according to STS’ representative sample of 3,000 adult females. That compares with the 14 percent share of their market baskets garnered by both slacks and jeans during the prior-year period.

As for who’s making those purchases, 33 percent of women bought casual pants during the first quarter, versus 29 percent, a year ago. Meanwhile, 28 percent of women bought jeans, from January through March, down from 30 percent, a year earlier.

When asked where they preferred to shop for apparel, the panel of women, along with 3,000 men, listed Wal-Mart as their favorite, followed by J.C. Penney Co., Kohl’s, Old Navy and Target. Macy’s was the only traditional department store to make their top 10, ranking ninth. "A consistent trend in the apparel market is the continued weakness of department stores," Spar observed. Old Navy led the list of consumers’ favorite specialty stores, followed by Gap, American Eagle Outfitters, Fashion Bug and Lane Byrant.

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