During the worst of the recession, there was a lot of speculation about how women’s clothing sales suffered because mothers would skimp on themselves and divert their more limited funds to the rest of the family. While that behavior certainly occurred, new research from the division of International Business Machines that studies retail analytics suggests that menswear may be tracking the ups and downs of the economy more closely than women’s apparel.
Analysts believe this is likely tied to employment levels, with men spending more on clothes to wear to work. IBM projects that men’s apparel sales will rise nearly 8.3% in the first quarter, far outpacing other retail categories. The firm expects women’s apparel to rise 2.4%, children’s apparel to climb nearly 5.1%, while home furnishings is expected to rise 6.9%, and health and beauty and footwear each to increase about 3.5%.
According to Mike Haydock, chief scientist and retail analytics leader for IBM Global Business Services, 2011 may have been the best year on record in terms of sales for men’s apparel. Haydock expects the men’s apparel category to rise about 8.21% in 2011, compared with a year earlier. By comparison, women’s apparel sales last year are projected to be up 1.96% from 2010.
In the women’s category, retailers are likely seeing a shift in the sales patterns regarding when women shop the most. In 2010, there was a surge around the Christmas holiday, but in 2011, there were a series of “mini-occasions,” such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, that sparked women’s apparel purchases.
As for the men, it appears they are wanting to put their best foot forward — especially those who are returning to the work force after a period of unemployment — and are purchasing more formal business attire.
“They’re tired of the khaki pants and golf shirt uniform that ruled many offices for the past couple of decades,” said Jill Puleri, global retail leader for IBM Global Business Services. “They’re looking to dress more stylishly — choosing items like skinny ties and suspenders that present a more polished look.”
While the women’s category far outstrips the size of the men’s category, it would appear that if retailers are looking for growth in clothing sales, they might want to focus on men. The trend also may be good for sales of skin care, hair care and other grooming products.[Source: Research conducted by International Business Machines (IBM) Global Business Services division. 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.]