BETTER CATEGORY FASTEST-GROWING IN WOMEN’S

NEW YORK — Below is a breakout of each segment in the women’s market at department stores, including some estimated market share data by major brands. The share information was compiled using company data, Morgan Stanley estimates and figures from NPD Group.

BETTER: Among women’s categories, better has been growing at the fastest pace recently, up 13.4 percent on average for each of the last three years, the study concluded. But 1999 growth slowed, up 2.9 percent to $5 billion. MS expects the better group will add 3 percent in 2000. The top four brands in better — Claiborne, Jones, Polo and Hilfiger — make up more than 70 percent of sales. Claiborne held a commanding 30.2 percent share of the better market, down from 38.9 percent in 1996 due to limited square-footage growth in department stores and new competition from Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Hilfiger. Jones New York’s brands in better fell to 20.6 percent from 25.3 percent in 1996 due to declines in the soft career business, but including Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones Apparel Group’s better share reached 29.1 percent in 1999. Lauren by Ralph Lauren, launched in 1996, accounted for 8.5 percent of the better market last year. Hilfiger, launched in 1996, gained strongly in better share to 6.8 percent from 3.8 percent in 1997. Other major brands are Guess, Mossimo, David Dart, Robert Scott, DKNY Active and Segrets.

MODERATE: The highly fragmented segment has been declining at a pace of about 5 percent over the last three years, though it was estimated to have remained flat last year, at $2.85 billion. Josie Esquivel, Morgan Stanley’s head apparel and textiles analyst, believes that while better has benefited from new launches, the moderate sector “has lost momentum due to a lack of name brands as well as style and novelty.” Private label accounts for 52 percent of the moderate group’s sales, and major brands are Sag Harbor, 14.8 percent; Alfred Dunner, 13.1 percent; Koret, 5.5 percent; Chaus, 3.7 percent, and Norton McNaughton, 3.1 percent. Morgan Stanley expects moderate women’s sales to gain 1 percent in 2000.

WOMEN’S/JUNIOR JEANS: Total wholesale women’s jean’s sales have grown at a 5 percent clip since 1997. But following gains of about 8 percent in 1997 and 1998, sales limped ahead only 1 percent last year to $1.16 billion as a result of slower growth for several status brands, according to Morgan Stanley. Topping the growth numbers are Hilfiger, which zoomed to a 17.3 percent share in 1999 from 5.2 percent in 1998 when it bowed; and Polo Jeans, growing to 15.5 percent last year from 10.3 percent in 1998. Esquivel expects growth rates for both to slow, with Hilfiger reaching a 19 percent share this year, and Polo 17.8 percent. Calvin Klein increased its leading share to 26.8 percent from 24.2 percent in 1998, but should retreat to 24.5 percent this year due to weakness in juniors. Other top feminine jeans brands are Lee, 19.1 percent, and Levi’s, 6.1 percent. Jeans sales are projected to rise 2 percent this year.

JUNIOR/CONTEMPORARY: The juniors area has grown at only a 1 percent pace over the last three years and declined about 2 percent last year, to $1.08 billion. Esquivel said department stores are more aggressively pursuing juniors this year “after having given this business up to specialty stores.” New entrants include Hilfiger, Claiborne’s DKNY and Kenneth Cole licensees, and Jones’s Nine West line. She expects sales to rise 2 percent in 2000.
The group is highly fragmented, but two of the leaders are Laundry, accounting for 7.9 percent of sales last year, and Ralph by Ralph Lauren, 4.4 percent, Morgan Stanley said. Claiborne acquired Laundry last year, and Jones launched the Ralph line for fall 1999.

BRIDGE: The bridge business peaked in 1996 when sales reached about $800 million, but has declined an estimated 8 percent over the past three years to reach $618 million in 1999, Morgan Stanley said.
Esquivel believes “the glimmers of a turnaround are in sight as this category is becoming increasingly lifestyle focused.” Flat sales are projected for 2000. Dana Buchman, owned by Claiborne, has seen its share in bridge drop to 25.9 percent from 27.1 percent, and Esquivel projects it will erode to 24.3 percent in 2000.
The combined share of Polo by Ralph Lauren and Polo Sport grew to 22.9 percent from 11.2 percent in 1997. She expects Polo will become top dog in bridge with a 25.9 percent share this year.
DKNY’s share has dropped from 29.9 percent in 1999 to 22.8 percent last year and should slide to 20.8 percent this year as lower average unit prices should offset increased unit sales.

DESIGNER: Growth has remained in the single digits over the last three years, reaching about $310 million.
Esquivel did not provide estimates for brand dominance since many major players — Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein — are private, and even public companies such as Yves Saint Laurent, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren do not break out designer volume.

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