Byline: Ira P. Schneiderman

NEW YORK — In women’s apparel, mass merchants have wrestled away another market-share point from traditional retailers.
Mass merchants — including discounters, off-pricers, factory outlets, warehouse clubs and national chains such as Sears Roebuck & Co. and J.C. Penney Co. — captured more than 40 percent of women’s apparel purchases from January through September, according to the NPD Consumer Purchase Panel. NPD tracks apparel purchases through a monthly survey of 16,000 nationally representative households.
In the first nine months of 1993, mass retailers had a 39 percent share of the women’s apparel business, according to NPD.
While a 1 percent change may seem slight, it represented $1.9 billion in sales that might otherwise have gone to department stores or specialty retailers.
The gains mass merchants continue to make in the apparel sector are being driven by value-conscious shoppers and a decline in store loyalty, according to industry analysts.
Among the mass-market retail groups, off-price stores achieved the greatest increase in women’s apparel sales in the first nine months. Women’s sales at off-price stores rose 17 percent to $3.5 billion in the period, NPD said.
Following is the breakdown of women’s apparel purchases at other retail outlets in the first nine months of the year, according to NPD data. NPD is a service of the NPD Group Inc., Port Washington, N.Y.
Women’s apparel purchases at discount stores, led by Wal-Mart Stores’ 20 percent increase, rose 9.7 percent to $8.4 billion.
National chains, including Sears, Penney’s and Montgomery Ward, showed a combined increase of 10.8 percent and sales of $6.4 billion. The strongest results came from Penney’s with a 21.7 percent increase.
At department stores, sales of women’s apparel rose 7.2 percent to $12.5 billion. At the top 50 department stores, women’s apparel sales rose 11.3 percent to $10.3 billion.
Women’s apparel purchases at all specialty stores increased 4.5 percent to $11.1 billion. Specialty chains, however, showed gains of 11.3 percent with sales reaching $6.8 billion.
Purchases of women’s apparel at factory outlets was basically flat, at $1.7 billion.
Women’s apparel purchases through direct mail increased 1.8 percent to $3.8 billion in the nine-month period, a dramatic dropoff from the 11.7 percent increase in the year’s first six months.
Sales of women’s apparel also helped fuel growth in the total apparel market in the first nine months of the year.
Total apparel sales rose 6.3 percent in the period to $91.8 billion. Women’s apparel sales increased 7.1 percent to $50.4 billion, which easily exceeded the 2.2 percent sales increase women’s apparel achieved in the first nine months of 1993.
Mass retailers also managed to rake in a good portion of total apparel sales with sales of more than $42 billion in the first nine months of the year. This represented 47 percent of the total apparel market, according to NPD.
Mass merchants’ percentage gain over the similar nine-month period of 1993 was less than 1 percent, but it amounted to about $3 billion of sales.
Purchases of all apparel at department stores increased 6.3 percent to $21 billion. The top 50 department stores performed even better in the apparel sector. Total apparel sales rose 10 percent $17.3 billion. The breakdown of total apparel sales for other retail outlets in the January through September period is as follows.
Off-price retailers showed an 11.3 percent gain to $6.7 billion.
Discounters’ apparel sales increased 7.9 percent to $18.8 billion.
National chains achieved a 6.4 percent sales increase to $13.5 billion.
Warehouse clubs managed an 8.3 percent increase in apparel sales, which totaled $717 million.
Factory outlets’ apparel sales rose 5.6 percent to $3.4 billion.
At all specialty stores, apparel sales increased 4.4 percent to $16.6 billion. At specialty chains, however, apparel sales jumped 16 percent to $9.3 billion.

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