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Report: Premium Denim Market Grows Despite Discounts

Will premium be denim’s salvation from activewear cutting even deeper into the casual apparel category? From November 2014 to January 2015, Editd, a U.K.-based provider of real-time market data and analytics on the fashion industry, reported that U.S. women’s premium and luxury jean sales increased nine percent, while the value denim market shrunk eight percent and mass market denim dipped two percent.

In contrast, U.K. value and mass denim soared 52 percent and 29 percent respectively. Its premium denim sales for women fell 24 percent. As a result, Editd said U.K. luxury denim brands might want to refocus their attention to expanding its communication and stock lists overseas.

The stats were revealed in Editd’s recent report, Denim Retail in 2015, which examined how the category is faring in an athleisure-obsessed apparel market, and the denim brands and retailers that are keep consumers’ attention.

According to the report, the most stocked women’s brands in the U.S. skew toward pricier labels, with 7 For All Mankind ranked first, followed by J Brand and Paige Denim. For men, brands are more price diverse, with Levi’s at the top, followed by 7 For All Mankind and Diesel.

However, the line between premium and luxury denim blurs even further, as the markets’ average price point ($179) overlap and more premium retailers take on luxury brands.

Based on data from retailers worldwide, premium product tends to be priced $150-$200, while the majority of luxury products fall between $200-$300. Editd said as premium and luxury denim grows, retailers and brands need to better communicate to consumers the value of high-end materials and quality in order to see consumers spend on bigger ticket items.

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Up for Sale
Overall, the report revealed that premium and luxury tend to be the most discounted denim genres, with 35 percent of premium marked down an average 14 percent, and 45 percent of luxury denim marked down 17 percent. J Brand, 7 For All Mankind and Current/Elliott are the most discounted denim brands.

However, discounts have a lingering effect across the entire denim industry: 39 percent of mass and value denim is discounted on average 13.5%, with Asos and Kohl’s being two of the biggest discounters.

On the mass/value end of the retail spectrum, Editd found that Asos, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Zappos and Dillard’s are the biggest retailers of denim in the US. Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Shopbop rounded out the top five list for premium and luxury.

The report noted that Nordstrom is especially good at featuring denim in their communications, often using jeans and other denim apparel in its newsletters. From Oct. 23, 2014 to Jan. 23, 2015, the chain department store mentioned denim, offered denim styling tips and directed shoppers to denim products nearly 30 times.

Bottoms Up
The bulk of women’s denim assortments remain to be jeans, which make up a whopping 78 percent of the women’s global denim market, according to the report.

Skinny jeans continue to be the fit of choice, dominating the women’s segment with 76 percent, followed by boyfriend fits (10 percent) and jeggings (five percent). That trend is likely to continue as the top moving trends appear to be skinny jeans, slim straight jeans and boyfriend cuts.

Specifically, Editd said the best performing jeans in retail in the past 12 months, which have not been discounted and have been replenished at least once, have been the 1969 Resolution slim straight jeans by Gap, broken-in boyfriend jeans by J. Crew, Flying Monkey’s distressed Lulu jeans and Hudson’s Nico mid rise skinny.

For men, the top moving styles have been J Brand’s Darren lightweight jean, distressed 3301 tapered jeans by G Star sold on Gilt and Williamsburg Garment Company’s South 4th St. skinny jean. Other apparel, including an acid wash shirt from Forever 21 and a lined jacket from Kohl’s, performed well, too.

As for trends that missed the mark, Editd said the most discounted styles that arrived online Jan. 27, 2013-Jan. 27, 2014 were cropped jeans, printed denim, flared jeans, stone colored jeans and red jeans. While black and blue are commonplace in the denim market, the report noted that gray, white, pink and brown denim has started to see good performance across the market.

Trend Talk
Despite jeans’ stronghold on the denim market for the last 12 months, Editd said the category should expect “big growth in denim apparel for women, with the bulk of interest in non-jeans denim items” in 2015.

Denim dresses, coordinating sets, midi-length skirts and denim jackets are generating interest from retailers, as well as white denim and distressed denim. The luxury market is bringing an influx of patchwork denim, but the report warned that retailers should choose wisely. Simple patchwork details in tonal shades are a safe bet. Likewise, denim culottes could be a better alternative to the wide leg jeans and flares seen on the runway, as the exaggerated styles tend to be a “love it” or “hate it” silhouette amongst women.

Athletic styling will likely give men’s denim a boost in 2015, the report said, naming jogger jeans with elastic details the essential piece that unites athletisure and denim. In general, retailers should be on the look out for replacements to skinny jeans. For outwear, Editd said denim jackets and shirting would continue to be “critical pieces within retailers’ menswear denim assortments.”