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Young Consumers Seeking Quality Apparel: Sales Up at Gap Inc., and Other Big Chains

Young consumers are now seeking quality apparel, as major chains like Gap Inc., charge more for upgraded clothing — better fabrics and craftsmanship — and sales keep climbing along with profits.

Gap Inc. earned $308 million in Q3, compared to $193 million for the same period in 2011, or 63 cents a share, over 38 cents a share.

So-called millenials, a young demographic which accounts for the bulk of Gap sales, are giving up on “fast fashion,” trendy, poorly made apparel, and are now buying upmarket brands and styling, according to reports from Bloomberg News, Fast Retailing and Business Insider.

Among the brands pursuing youthful consumers with better goods are Intidex, Hennes & Mauritz, Forever 21, and J. Crew.

Behind the trend to quality is an apparent consumer displeasure with the once-popular low-priced, trendy-but-easily-disposable garments sold at the chains.

Foreign apparel makers are also benefiting from the new direction in buying habits among the young, domestically and in global markets as well.

Japanese clothing retailer Fast Retailing, which opened its UNIQLO’s flagship store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue is flourishing, selling a line which rather than imitates other successful clothiers, provides an innovative, upscale selection.

To capitalize on what appears to be this international buying trend, the firm’s CEO, Tadashi Yanai, announced plans to open additional stores in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Berlin, Milan and Barcelona. UNIQLO is already established in Japan, London and Paris.

An additional explanation for this shift in consumer taste was offered by David Wolfe, creative director of the Doneger Group, a leading fashion industry trend and merchandising forecaster.

“There’s a whole vast sector of the public that really has been burned out by fast fashion and the novelty is just very exhausted,” he said.

“There’s a great opportunity now for quality basics that are very, very well-priced.”

Buying data indicates that while unit sales of apparel declined last year, the dollar amount spent increased, reflecting the move to quality over quantity, according to a Doneger Group analysis.

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