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US apparel growth categories will be those that ‘act active but look fashion’


If US companies can just batten down the hatches and wait for 2021, they should start to see apparel spending on the rise again, although total consumer spend will continue to dip this year and next, a new study claims.

NPD Group’s The Future of Apparel report did say that some categories will see growth in the next two years, however. And those categories will be? Think sweats, swimwear, sleepwear, and dresses. And it’s interesting to see just why the research firm has hit on those categories in particular.

“The future success of the apparel industry will rely on categories that act active but look fashion,” said its chief industry advisor Marshal Cohen. How so? “Consumers are craving fashion but don’t want to sacrifice the comfort and convenience of activewear that they’ve grown accustomed to,” he added.

The evidence for this can be seen in the growth of sweats and sleepwear. “Men’s and women’s sweatshirts spur growth in the active category, and the blurred lines around the definition of loungewear benefit sleepwear sales,” NPD said.

According to its Consumer Tracking Service, in the 12 months to May, sales of sweats and active bottoms (for adults and kids) grew 8% to $23.6 billion, and sleepwear sales increased 2% to $7.8bn.

Dresses and swim haven’t matched those performances but NPD thinks they’ll “look to innovation to drive future growth”. Dresses have actually seen a 3% drop to just under $15bn, but it said “women’s athletic dresses are expected to offset these declines over the next two years”.

And swim sales fell 4% to $5.8bn over the past 12 months, but this was due in part to the late arrival of summer temperatures across the US.

“Sweatshirts are displacing traditional tops by winning in both comfort and style, and the continued integration of shapewear into swimsuit design will reinvigorate spending,”Cohen added.

“Today’s fashion is about easy style that is functional – an equation brands throughout the apparel industry can and should apply.”


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