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Edited Data Indicates Refreshed Outlook for Denim, Activewear

With 2021 looming as a much-needed reset for the retail sector, denim is expected to get a reboot as well. Experts say jeans sales are picking back up after taking a tip at the start of the pandemic.

Retail market intelligence platform Edited presented hopeful data on Tuesday that encourages retailers to stock up on specific denim styles for men and women. Topping the list are relaxed silhouettes and fabrications with ample stretch, the latter of which has been the industry’s main focus as consumers look to forgiving fabrics for pandemic-related weight fluctuations. Earlier this year, Good American and J Brand each released their stretchiest denim styles ever.

And men especially have been embracing stretch denim at record rates. According to Edited’s data, men’s stretch denim sellouts are up 23 percent since last year, underscoring earlier NPD reports that signaled a growing market for these products. The same report noted that this consumer might also be open to spending more for their denim.

Edited highlighted men’s shift to looser styles, with sellouts of relaxed and straight fits up 15 percent and 13 percent year-over-year, respectively. Women share similar sentiments, with sellouts of wide-leg, straight and paper-bag styles up 97 percent, 69 percent and 24 percent year-over-year, respectively.

With regard to the shift to relaxed fits, experts explored the fate of the skinny jean, a style that up until now has largely been viewed as a reliable bet throughout the industry. Though its future may seem grim as silhouettes diversify, Edited market analyst Kayla Marci sees a bright future for those willing to evolve the style according to consumers’ changing needs.

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“I don’t think the skinny jean is quite over, but to keep it alive, it certainly needs to fit in with the new and the next normal and really be accommodating to these new lifestyle shifts,” she said.

The new lifestyle shifts she’s referring to include a growing focus on hygiene and functionality—demands that have sparked numerous material innovations such as antimicrobial components and compression technology featured by premium denim brands such as Diesel and Frame.

Edited also pointed to the growing emphasis on circularity, and the opportunity it presents for denim retailers to lean into the resale category, a shift that’s already underway as Levi’s recently launched a buy-back program for its denim, and Guess presented customers with easier access to its vintage archive.

Closely aligned with the vintage wave is the nostalgic trend, which has gained traction throughout the pandemic because of its comforting qualities—so much so that Edited considered it a denim trend to watch. Retailers can look to iconic styles of decades past such as split hems, patchwork denim and baggy styles that help soothe customers’ nerves as they look back at a better time.

Still, demand for denim doesn’t hold a candle to demand for its cozy counterparts. Sellouts in sweatpants are up 81 percent year-over-year compared to jeans, up 30 percent year-over-year, Edited reported. The data also showed that moving stock for jeans requires a 40 percent discount compared to sweatpants, which requires a 31 percent discount.

Activewear is also expected to gain traction with the new year on the horizon and consumers revisiting resolutions. Currently, sneaker demand is high for both men and women, with a growing opportunity for jackets and outerwear as outdoor activities become more popular for consumers itching to leave their homes. Currently, Edited data shows women’s jackets make up 9 percent of product in stock, yet account for 13 percent of sellouts.

Edited noted that a shift to even more tech and material innovation is on the horizon, naming circularity and ethical, vegan materials some of the main concepts that will guide fashion’s future.

The firm also pointed out seemingly contradicting trends that are sure to affect all apparel categories, and ultimately, keep fashion interesting. Themes such as utility, characterized by functional elements like pocketing and zippers; maximalism, featuring voluminous accents and excessiveness that consumers have shied away from during the pandemic; “sexy dressing,” as displayed by corsets and figure-flattering silhouettes; and “vintage femme,” a mature version of the modest Cottagecore escapist aesthetic, are percolating.