Department stores are still tops when it comes to shopping for dresses, suits and eveningwear, but they are facing some tough competition from many other channels.

Favorite retail stops that were mentioned in the WWD survey for ready-to-wear include midtier chains J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s and Sears; specialty chains such as Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor/Ann Taylor Loft, Casual Corner, Express, Talbot’s and even Old Navy, and discounters Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart.

When asked to pick up to five stores where they regularly shop for dresses, suits and eveningwear, respondents gave department stores as a group the biggest share — 66 percent — followed by specialty stores, at 30 percent, and discounters, 18 percent. Catalogues took 4 percent.

Interestingly, 33 percent chose “other” stores, indicating that local independent retailers still play a big role in this apparel category.

“For a long time, department stores were the place women shopped for dresses — particularly ensemble-style, head-to-toe dressy wardrobes — but that’s certainly [changing] now,” said Nita Rollins, executive director of marketing at Resource Interactive, Columbus, Ohio, a consumer market research firm.

“Now, women are building wardrobes with items and separates, and buying them based on fit, style and value at a variety of retail venues,” she said. “Even Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart are offering dressier items that could certainly count as eveningwear when paired with the right shoes and earrings.”

Ready-to-wear retailers who are combining their store, catalogue and Internet businesses are enjoying consumer loyalty, thanks to the convenience factors that emerge from the three-channel paradigm.

Among chains, Penney’s led department stores with a 27 percent share, Lane Bryant gathered 6 percent of the specialty vote and, as in many categories, Wal-Mart dominated discounters with 13 percent.

When respondents were asked to pick the one store where they most often buy the category, department stores again ruled: Penney’s notched 14 percent, Macy’s took 9 percent, Dillard’s captured 8 percent and Kohl’s grabbed 7 percent. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart took 6 percent, but “other” stores registered 24 percent.

What is the one store where you shop most often for dresses/suits/eveningwear?

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

DRESSES/SUITS/EVENINGWEAR
Where do you regularly shop for dresses/suits/eveningwear for yourself?

(Pick up to 5)
Department stores 66%
J.C. Penney
27%
Macy’s
18%
Kohl’s
16%
Dillard’s
15%
Sears
12%
Nordstrom
9%
   
Specialty Apparel Stores 30%
Lane Bryant
6%
Ann Taylor/ATLoft
5%
Casual Corner
4%
Express
3%
Old Navy
3%
Talbots
3%
New York & Co.
3%
Gap
2%
   
Discounters 18%
Wal-Mart
13%
Target
7%
Kmart
3%
 
Catalogues 4%
Coldwater Creek
3%
   
TV 1%
QVC
1%
   
Warehouse Clubs Less than 1%
   
Other stores 33%
The 33 percent share for other stores in this category indicates a high score among local independent boutiques.
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