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The Proof Is In the Numbers: Denim Sales Are On the Rebound

Revamped denim collections, the popularity of ’90s styling and interest in new shapes helped rev up denim sales during the first quarter of the year.

PVH Corp. is home to two labels that are riding the denim revival in style: Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. In March, the company reported 2017 revenue exceeded guidance, driven by the two denim-focused brands.

Revenue in the Tommy Hilfiger business for the quarter gained 22 percent to $1.1 billion, with a 37 percent increase in Tommy Hilfiger International and a 5 percent gain for Tommy Hilfiger North America.

Both brands have tapped into a pool of millennial and Gen Z style leaders to help elevate their offerings, including Tommy Hilfiger’s ongoing collaboration with model Gigi Hadid and Calvin Klein’s #MYCALVINS campaign starring influencers like the Kardashian and Jenner sisters, Solange Knowles and Paris Jackson.

Meanwhile, both brands have been influential in the ’90s denim comeback, releasing throwback silhouettes and logo-heavy products.

“We believe that the incredible brand power behind Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger positions us well in the marketplace against our competition and will drive continued momentum, as reflected in our 2018 outlook,” PVH chairman and CEO Emanuel Chirico said in an earnings report.

For Abercrombie, its transformation from elitist teen retailer to accessible and inclusive staple brand for Gen Z is finally taking hold. The brand found itself in an unfamiliar position in March, with comparable sales up 5 percent—the first quarterly increase in five years, Reuters reported.

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At the time of the results, CEO Fran Horowitz owed the increase to “staying close” to its customer and its revamped playbook. In recent seasons, Abercrombie has rolled out more inviting retail concepts, introduced campaigns with more diversity, expanded its size range and lowered prices.

The brand also relaunched its men’s and women’s denim collection for Fall ’17, upgrading jeans with sculpting fabrics and trendy silhouettes like high-rise skinnies and wide-leg jeans. Abercrombie is betting on ’90s revival styles like ripped boyfriend overalls and two-tone denim mini-skirts to maintain that momentum this spring.

Last week at WWD’s Men’s Wear Summit in New York City, Chad Kessler, American Eagle global brand president, reported that the brand did more than $3 billion in sales last year, with denim leading the charge.

“We’ve emerged as the clear leader in our space,” he said. “We’ve had several years in row with positive comps and we’re driving positive traffic and positive comps in our stores and in our digital channel.”

Net revenue for American Eagle Outfitters increased 12 percent to $1.23 billion during Q4, compared to $1.10 billion for the 13-week period last year. And the company believes it’s well positioned for growth in 2018.

Kessler noted that the only store that sells more jeans than American Eagle is Walmart, and he’s pretty confident they’ll soon catch them.

Denim-centric women’s brand Madewell has been taking over the reins for J.Crew Group, too. Madewell sales rose 23 percent to $421.1 million in Q4, with its comparable sales increasing 13 percent. To contrast, sales for the more traditional J. Crew brand were down 8 percent to $1.85 billion.

While the company believes a J.Crew reboot is in the cards, CEO Jim Brett said, “We will scale Madewell more rapidly, building upon its proven and consistent record of growth, through strategic investments with highly profitable returns.”

Brands are debuting plenty of new and exciting product for spring and summer. G-Star Raw touts denim for curvy ladies with a narrow waist in its new collection, G-Star Raw Shape. Fast fashion and premium labels are injecting collections with unexpected pops of color. And a crop of Kickstarter campaigns are tempting consumers with long-lasting and durable jeans.