NPD: Apparel Sales Rebounded in 2011

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Port Washington, NY—Fed up with “Frugal Fatigue,” American shoppers began buying apparel again last year.

That’s the results announced today by The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, which, through its Consumer Tracking Service, found that U.S. apparel sales rose 4% to $199 billion dollars last year. The increases were reported across the board: women’s apparel grew 3%, children’s grew 6%, and men’s apparel was up 4%.

“This is a marked improvement over the prior years,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, at NPD Group. “I believe this is testament to the use of sales and value pricing by retailers that did in fact get the consumer to respond. I think this also goes back to the ‘Frugal Fatigue’ phenomenon we have been watching. It seems to have materialized for apparel in 2011 as consumers finally got back to building their wardrobes again.”

Several categories stood out as leading beneficiaries of this renewed interest in fashion: dresses, for instance, posted a 17% increase in dollar sales. A complement to dresses, women’s hosiery posted growth as well. Tights and Sheer hosiery combined grew 8% last year. Women’s intimate apparel also showed encouraging growth, up 6% over 2010.

Consumers Seek ‘Brand Names for Less’

“Looking at the women’s market numbers it becomes evident to me that it wasn’t necessarily the ‘big’ categories that had the most impact, it was the smaller items that helped to drive growth,” Cohen said. “It was also those products that brought ‘newness’ to the party that helped. The women’s apparel market continues to be the barometer of the health of the overall apparel market…as goes women’s so goes the market.”

As far as which retail channels garnered the biggest gains in shares in 2011, manufacture-owned stores posted the highest growth, up 15%. Off-price and specialty stores both were up 6%. Department and national chain stores also posted 3% growth. Mass merchants showed slight improvement, up 1%.

“These channel results demonstrate that the consumer’s pursuit of value has become more about ‘brand names for less,’ and less about getting the ‘lowest prices,’” added Cohen, “Stores and brands that have shifted with the consumer and provide an assortment of recognizable brands, a good deal, and better quality merchandise as well as having shifted away from being only about the lowest price, are the ones that have posted growth.”

The NPD Group once again partnered with Accessories magazine to produce the “2011 Accessories Census,” which was published in the March issue. To find the complete accessories report online, click on:

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 2,000 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit


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