Clothing sales rose 2% in the most recent 12-month period, and that’s good news for apparel brands. But a closer look at the latest numbers from NPD Group show that sales in stores slipped 2%, as online shopping surged 19%. And key regional differences are emerging. Orlando, Fla., Washington D.C., Phoenix, and other smaller markets are driving the increases, in terms of both dollar sales and growth rate.
“The big regions are no longer leading apparel industry sales growth,” says NPD’s Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, in its release. “When New York and Los Angeles don’t even make it into the top 10 list of DMAs driving apparel growth, we have a big opportunity gap in the market. We need to understand the cause in order for the apparel industry to regain traction moving forward.”
NPD’s report finds that in-store sales declined in most of the 10 largest U.S. markets, with Washington, D.C., where in-store sales rose 14%, being the notable exception. The five largest areas for clothing sales are New York, with an 8% share of dollar sales; Los Angeles (5%); Philadelphia (3%); Chicago (3%), and Washington, 3%. But in terms of growth, Orlando led the way, up 23%, followed by Washington (18%); Phoenix (16%); Cleveland (16%) and Detroit (11%.)
Focusing solely on online sales, however, NPD reports that New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and the Dallas-Ft. Worth grew fastest, with double-digit gains.
Despite online shopping’s inroads, now accounting for 17% of all U.S. apparel sales, Cohen points out that physical stores still hold the trump card in fashion: Immediate gratification for the impulse shopper. Impulse buys power 32% of in-store sales, versus 22% of online purchases.
“Impulse purchases are the big growth driver, so the strategy of driving traffic to websites needs to exist in tandem with efforts to drive traffic to the stores,” says Cohen. “Regardless of regional market size, or method of purchase, the apparel industry needs to engage consumers with something new and different — something they can’t find everywhere.”