Frugal Fatigue

Here is some good news for independent retailers who sell apparel. According to The NPD Group, Inc. (, a market research company headquartered in Port Washington, NY, the U.S. apparel market, while in negative territory for 2009, showed signs of coming back to life as the year ended. Between frugal fatigue and pent up demand, the consumer is spending.

The total U.S. apparel market posted a 5.1 percent decline for all of 2009, but in the fourth quarter of the year, there were some signs that the women’s apparel market might be starting to recover. The women’s market slowed its decline and bucked the total apparel trend, with only a three percent decline in that quarter. While still not positive growth, it is a sign that momentum is shifting. “For the fashion industry, this is a very important sign. As go women shoppers, so goes the total fashion market,” says Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “Women represent just over 50 percent of total fashion market sales, and they account for almost 25 percent more in the purchases they make for others. Without them, a true recovery will not occur.”

There are some important apparel categories that performed well in 2009. They are: jeans +3.5 percent, dresses +2.3 percent, bras +1.1 percent, tights +2.4 percent, and men’s underwear tops +11 percent. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that we are out of the woods just yet.” cautioned Cohen. “Between frugal fatigue and pent up demand, the consumer is spending, but we will likely see a lull.”