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Consumers Spending More on Apparel and Footwear

Consumer spending on apparel and footwear picked up in September, according to the most current data released by the Department of Commerce, rising by 1.13% on a 12-month smoothed basis, its healthiest monthly increase in nine months, though much lower than the increase in total goods spending, which was 3.8%, and nondurables spending, which increased by 2.6%.

It may be premature to call this increase a rally, however. Apparel and footwear spending growth has slowed from a peak of 6 percent in March 2012 to where it is today, hardly keeping pace with inflation.


Footwear spending fared a bit better than apparel in the month, rising by 1.8% compared to over 1 percent for garments only, its first time at that level so far this year. September marked the sixth straight month of accelerating growth for footwear spending.


Women’s apparel spending had the best performance in the month, increasing by 1.5%, ahead of both menswear, which rose by less than a half percent, and children’s, where spending declined by 0.4%.


Apparel and footwear spending as a percent of total disposable income, which is sometimes referred to as its “share of wallet,” fell from over 4.3% in 1994 to bottom out at just over 2.7% in June 2009. Since then, it has risen slightly to just above 3 percent. Despite spending almost $366 billion per year on the combined categories, Americans have been able to dedicate less of their budgets to clothing, due to declining prices and plentiful supply of product, and free up dollars for more inflationary categories like housing and health care.