By  on August 14, 2011

NEW YORK — With a nod to tailored clothing and dress shirts, men’s apparel sales had a positive showing in the first half of the year, while women’s apparel sales fell slightly, according to The NPD Group.

From January through June 2011, men’s apparel dollar volume increased 4.6 percent to $22.6 billion, while women’s apparel dollar volume declined 0.8 percent to $51 billion, according to NPD. Total adult apparel market dollar volume gained 0.8 percent to $73.7 billion.

“The apparel market numbers were starting to look good again,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “However, the women’s market is dragging, and women may continue to ‘shop in their closets’ and make concessions in favor of their family members’ needs.”

NPD’s online consumer panel consists of nearly 2 million registered adults and teens who participate in the surveys.

Among the standouts in the men’s apparel market were sales of tailored clothing, which increased 11 percent to $1.7 billion, and sales of men’s dress shirts, which rose more than 3 percent to $933 million.

“Men are in the need/replenishment cycle, as well as a ‘dress-for-success’ mind-set,” said Cohen, “Younger and the more ‘experienced’ men are buying apparel to replenish their worn-out items and, perhaps more importantly, buying wardrobe items that will separate them from the competition in the workplace.”

On the other hand, women’s apparel, while showing an overall decline of close to 1 percent, had a few categories that posted growth. Dollar sales of dresses, suits and sheer hosiery all experienced gains in the first half. Dollar sales of dresses were up 1.1 percent to $3.6 billion; suits gained 17.9 percent to $564 million, and sheer hosiery was up 2.1 percent to $445 million, according to NPD.

“While women for the most part are foregoing their own wardrobe needs, they are picking and choosing from categories that might have a benefit in their professional lives,” said Cohen.

As far as prices, average retail prices rose 6 percent during the first half versus a year ago. Prices in men’s apparel rose almost 8 percent, while prices in women’s apparel increased 3 percent.

“Rising prices along with their impact on the consumer have gotten a lot of attention over the past six months,” said Cohen. “The price pressures have come from throughout the supply chain and ultimately are passed on to consumers. But I think these results show that consumers have been accepting of those price increases.

“With all of the recent economic distractions, I am concerned about their effect on consumers,” said Cohen, “Traditionally, July is not a strong retail month but going forward it will be critical for retailers to gather some momentum for retail’s ‘big’ second half.”

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