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NPD: US Denim Sales Rebound in 2016

Recent denim sales reveal the importance of offering newness and basics at retail.

The NPD Group reported Tuesday that the $13.5 billion U.S. women’s and men’s jeans market has rebounded from recent challenging times, growing sales 4 percent in 2016. However, the retail data firm found that men are shopping for older styles, while the latest styles drive women’s sales.

“Jeans are representative of retail as a whole—newness and innovation drives growth while the basics maintain volume,” said Marshal Cohen, The NPD Group, Inc. chief industry analyst. He added, “Denim manufacturers and retailers are realizing the importance of striking a balance between giving consumers the features they know and love, and introducing them to some new elements they didn’t know they needed.”

The recent flood of new cuts, rigid fabrications and Vetements-like creativity in the women’s denim market delivered results. Women’s jeans introduced to the market within the past two years make up almost 70 percent of the units sold in 2016 and nearly all the dollar gains for the year, NPD reported.

Older product offerings for women launched in 2013 or earlier retained 19 percent of the units sold. However, these products were responsible for more than a third of the dollar losses for the year.

Meanwhile, men are still warming up to comfort stretch and new cuts. Most of the jeans sold for men in 2016 were older product that entered the market in 2013 or earlier. NPD said this was likely a factor why the men’s denim market grew at a slower rate than the women’s market.

Data showed that denim products introduced in 2016 were a much smaller portion of the men’s market, but generated almost three-quarters of the dollars gained in the same year.

Despite the uptick in sales, Cohen warns that denim manufacturers need to avoid becoming complacent.

“How many more of the same style jeans do women need? Why should men, who are less likely to gravitate to new and different product, change for the sake of change?” Cohen asked, adding, “The denim market needs to find ways to break consumers of comfortable shopping habits with new product offerings that are worthy of both the change and the spend, ultimately driving the market forward into its rightful place of strength.”