Denim in a comeback, with off-price, specialty stores driving growth

Retailers take note: Women in the U.S. are making more room in their closets for jeans.

A total of 364 million pairs of women’s jeans were purchased in the U.S. in the 12 months that ended in February 2019, with more than half bought on sale, according to The NPD Group. The nearly 22 million unit increase compared to the prior year was the primary source of growth for jeans category overall.

Women’s jeans are becoming increasingly planned purchases as well as the primary reason for shopping, and the off-price and specialty store channels have seen the most activity. Off-price unit and dollar sales are both up almost 30% in the 12 months ending February 2019 – now representing 17% of unit sales and driving the majority of women’s jeans growth. The specialty store channel, which includes such retailers as American Eagle, H&M, and TopShop, accounts for over a third of women’s jeans annual sales and experienced unit growth of 6% compared to the previous 12 months.

In-store sales still account for an overwhelming majority of women’s jeans sold – 80% in the last year – but these purchases are on the decline. Online sales are driving growth in the market, with a 32% increase in the number of women’s jeans being purchased through e-commerce channels the past 12 months.

NPD’s Checkout E-commerce information reveals that online women’s jeans buyers are also spending more and purchasing more frequently. The average online annual spend per buyer on women’s jeans was 4% higher than last year, and they purchase women’s jeans online twice a year on average.

“The recent growth in women’s jeans is good news for the industry – women want to wear more than just leggings and yoga pants,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group. “But, the emphasis on quantity and discounting means marketers need to find new ways to inspire the women’s jeans consumer, and deliver product that compels them to take their purchase to the next level. Manufacturers and retailers are now faced with the challenge of strengthening the consumer’s passion for jeans to ensure they are more than a commodity in their eyes.”