Stylish looks at affordable prices mark casualwear.

Most Americans appear content to go low price when it comes to buying casual and weekendwear.

This year, 83 percent of those surveyed said they bought casual clothes at some point in the past 12 months. That is off 4 percent from last year, but it is still the category with the highest number of people saying they bought it — even more than underwear.

The retailers that scored the highest in casualwear included moderate to better department stores and discounters. When asked to select up to five stores where they regularly shop for their weekend togs, 56 percent chose department stores — up 2 percent from last year — with Kohl’s leading the way, gaining four points to 27 percent. J.C. Penney gained two, to 25 percent, and Macy’s was up one point at 11 percent.

Discounters, which as a group lost three points to 53 percent, were led by Wal-Mart (remaining at 37 percent), followed by Target (off a point at 29 percent) and Kmart (down one to 10 percent).

Specialty stores garnered 49 percent, with Old Navy at 21 percent and Gap at 16 percent on top.

But when asked to choose the one store they shopped most often for this category, discounters won, with a 30 percent share, followed by department stores at 28 percent and specialty retailers at 26 percent. Discounters dropped 2 percent from last year, while the other two channels each gained one point.

The top five individual retailers were:

This story first appeared in the July 10, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

  • Wal-Mart, 19 percent.
  • Kohl’s, 11 percent.
  • Target, 9 percent.
  • J.C. Penney, 8 percent.
  • Old Navy, 8 percent.

    Retailers in the lower-priced arenas are taking steps to bring more fashion to their offerings.

Wal-Mart, for instance, has upped the fashion quotient for its private labels, recently unveiling Mark Eisen as the designer for a subset of its classic British-born George brand. George ME by Mark Eisen is set to arrive at retail next month and will be sold at all 3,205 U.S. Wal-Mart stores and on its Web site. It is the latest addition to Wal-Mart’s $25 billion apparel business, and follows the successful launch of Metro 7 contemporary clothing that bowed last fall. The new George line is part of Wal-Mart’s drive to grow its clothing business, particularly at the fashion end.

Kohl’s, meanwhile, revealed plans in April to open almost 500 stores over the next four years, aiming to have 1,200 stores by the end of 2010. It currently operates 732 stores in 41 states. It also has developed three prototypes to help drive that growth — small, suburban and urban. In addition, its revamped apparel strategy, based on serving classic, updated and contemporary fashion profiles, along with a new cosmetics program last year, helped fuel strong gains in its women’s business.

Target, which some analysts have said thinks like a department store when it comes to apparel, has capitalized on successful franchises such as Isaac Mizrahi and Mossimo, and has a successful swim program, among other categories. Apparel and accessories pulled in $11.6 billion, or 22 percent, of fiscal 2005 sales.

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