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Women Unleash Their Pent Up Demands (For Better Wardrobes)

American retailers rejoiced over the uptick in women’s apparel sales last year–up 3%, after only 1.5% growth in 2011. As reported by Sourcing Journal, the increasingly casual U.S. workplace* spurred a rush for dresses and denim, but The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch reports that a colorful trend, and demand for quality over quantity also motivated spending.

Gap, with their Be Bright campaign, Ann Taylor’s focus on bright blues–from azure, to cobalt, to turquoise–and the appearance of Joe Fresh’s bold prints and crisp, colorful slacks in JC Penney stores, are all part of a hue-oriented trend that female shoppers apparently love. When asked to comment on sales growth, both Gap and Ann Taylor credited color.

Also, according to Marshal Cohen of research firm NPD Group, “Women spent a good part of 2012 finally building their wardrobe”–buying high-quality, long-lasting, versatile pieces. Is it possible that women are getting burned out on fast fashion?

Sales of jeans and dresses–the most versatile items in any women’s wardrobe–both increased by 11%. “Dresses used to be a special occasion thing and a spring item,” Cohen said. But with the rise of the casual dress, “sales are soaring,” and retailers have responded, making dresses year-round.

Cohen is optimistic about 2013. “There’s a lot of pent up demand,” he says, as women continue to update their wardrobes. But once women have built their wardrobes back up, will they stop buying? According to Cohen, that won’t happen any time soon. “They are not buying a lot at one time,” he explained, but rather “evaluating every purchase.”

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