NPD: ’06 is Dressy, But Clothing Weak

by MR Magazine Staff

NEW YORK – Dressing up helped lead menswear to 2.9% growth in dollar terms in 2006, even though sales of tailored clothing dropped 8.2%.

In figures released this week by The NPD Group of Port Washington, NY, menswear managed US retail sales of $54.79 billion during calendar 2006, a 2.9% jump from the 2005 mark of $53.23 billion. However, dollar sales of tailored clothing, including suit separates, dropped to $4.7 billion from $5.12 billion the year before. Unit sales of tailored clothing were up 0.6%, but the average price dropped to $81.56 per unit from $89.40.

“Suits are stronger in the younger men’s market,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “Younger men are realizing the benefits of dressing up. ‘Dress for success’ has become ‘dress to impress.’”

Men aged 25 to 34 increased their suit purchases 13.4% and those in the 18-24 bracket purchased 11.6% more suits in 2006 than they did in 2005, Cohen pointed out.

The strength of dressing up also came through in the 2006 performance of men’s footwear, sales of which were up a vigorous 9.5% to $11.01 billion. Dress footwear was the smallest of the five categories tabulated, but its numbers were strong, picking up 19.3% to $641.5 million. Dress/casual was up 13.7% to $2.06 billion.

The biggest dollar increase in men’s apparel came in the smallest of the categories covered by NPD. Swimwear was up 15.5% to $731.8 million.

Bottoms enjoyed a strong year, with sales up 8.5% to $15 billion from $13.8 billion. Pants and slacks, described by NPD as “a dressier option,” were up 7.2% while jeans moved ahead 5.4%. Tops, the largest category, advanced 1.4% in dollar terms, to $20.77 billion, but units declined 0.3%.

Other findings of NPD’s annual wrap-up of apparel sales:

  • Underwear sales rallied 5%, to $3.58 billion, on a 5.1 unit increase;
  • Outerwear dollars advanced 4.2%, to $3.44 billion, despite a 2.5% unit decline;
  • Accessories sales dropped 4.8%, to $1.94 billion, as units suffered a 6.3% dropoff;
  • Hosiery sales were up 3.9% to $1.92 billion as units contracted 0.9%;
  • Fleecewear sales advanced a robust 8.1% to $1.89 billion, on a 2.6% unit pickup; and
  • Sleepwear sales pulled back 1.1%, to $835.5 million, as units receded 6.4%.

Elsewhere in men’s footwear, casual sales were up 9.3% to $3.64 billion; leisure/low-performance was up 8.4% to $8.4 billion; and work/occupational safety rose 2.1% to $1.15 billion.

Commenting on footwear’s performance, Cohen noted, “Department stores, here again, need to reexamine their model and look at places like self-serve stores. I see stores like Famous Footwear, DSW and Payless gaining. They have clearly made a connection with the consumer. Consumers love their convenience and speed to shop there, not to mention the lower prices and increased emphasis on fashion.”