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NPD: Women’s Apparel Sales Up 3.7% in 2013

Online purchases, outerwear and tailored merchandise pace sales gains.

Women’s apparel sales in the U.S. rose 3.7 percent last year, to $116.4 billion from $112.3 billion in 2012, according to The NPD Group’s compilation of results for 2013.

The results for last year include a 17 percent increase in women’s apparel bought on Web sites, accounting for about 15 percent of the total, or about $17.5 billion.

Smaller categories and distribution channels garnered the largest increases, with outerwear sales up 12 percent to $6.3 billion as persistent cold weather characterized the end of the year. Tailored clothing for women — including jackets, blazers and suit separates — registered an 11 percent increase to reach about $4 billion. The dress-up trend was also complemented by a 33 percent rise in sales of tights, NPD said.

Off-price retailers garnered the largest increases in women’s wear sales among the major distribution channels, with sales rising 8 percent to $13.1 billion. In descending order of increases, mass merchants were up 3 percent to $14.4 billion, department stores up 2 percent to $19.1 billion and, maintaining their position as the largest channel for women’s apparel sales, specialty stores up 2 percent to $42 billion. National chains, including J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Kohl’s Corp., registered a 1 percent increase to $11.9 billion.

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Warehouse clubs moved up 10 percent to $1.2 billion while “all other” retailers also gained 10 percent to account for $14.7 billion of the total.

Noting the double-digit increase in online purchasing, Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, pointed out that the average online purchase is larger than the average purchase made in a store.

“With the continued increase of online sales threatening the traditional brick-and-mortar retail model, retailers and brands must be quick to adapt to the changing needs of the online shopper,” he said. “Seamless integration across all channels will help retailers maintain a better connection with their shoppers.”