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WASHINGTON – US apparel sales fell by two per cent in 2017 to US$215bn, according to new research. While e-commerce continues to drive industry growth, bricks-and-mortar still represents more than three-quarters of the US apparel market.

Global information company, NPD Group crunched information from more than three million consumers through data provided by Slice Intelligence. It found that in 2017, Millennials had the highest apparel growth rate of all generations at 4 per cent, representing US$2bn in incremental sales. Baby Boomers, who account for nearly 20 per cent of annual apparel dollar sales, and Generation Z, who generated almost a third of total apparel dollar sales, both experienced declines in overall spend for the year.

“The apparel industry is being challenged to respond to the latest changes being driven by the broader consumer and retail environment,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, NPD Group, Inc. “The rapid pace of change in Millennial consumption is one major change that points back to the importance of evolving consumer segmentation. The future of the apparel business depends on manufacturers and retailers refocusing on the current needs of each critical consumer segment.”

E-commerce has made slow inroads into apparel compared to other industries, from 16 per cent of sales in 2014 to 21 per cent in 2017, according to the research. In 2017, online apparel sales grew just 4 per per cent from the prior year, following double-digit growth in the prior two years.

“Categories like active apparel bottoms, undershirts, and swimwear – which indicate the consumer’s concentration on comfort, the staples, and niche products – are the few sources of consistent, long-term growth in today’s apparel market,” added Cohen. “Retail is changing, the consumer is changing, and every industry must understand where spending habits have moved, and adapt to the shifting market dynamics that are impacting their business.”

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