The Indulgent Boomers: Generation to Propel Apparel Again in 2005

While apparel and footwear spending in the U.S. appears to be decelerating, Baby Boomers aren't likely to slow their consumption in the new year.

NEW YORK — Another Boomer year is ahead.

While overall apparel and footwear expenditures in the U.S. appear to be decelerating, the Baby Boomers — who make up about one-fourth of the U.S. population — are not likely to significantly slow their consumption levels in the new year, experts say, especially on their beloved apparel.

That’s because for Boomers, most of whom came of age during the Sixties when music and fashion took revolutionary turns, apparel has evolved into a vehicle of personal expression and identity. Moreover, female Baby Boomers have a seemingly insatiable desire to keep their closets updated with trendy apparel.

“Boomers will not deprive themselves,” said Brent Green, author of the book “Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers” (Paramount Market Publishing, 2003). “Their identity is tied up with how they dress. Boomer women today are fashion conscious just as they always have been because they have been catered to from the beginning by the fashion industry.”

But the picture isn’t forever rosy. Five to 10 years from now, consumption levels for this group might change as disposable income gets pressured in the wake of retirement, partly because experts say the self-indulgent Boomers aren’t as good at saving money as past generations. That would be quite a change for the group, which spends about 40 percent more than other generations, said Cynthia Cohen, president and founder of Strategic Mindshare, a retail and consumer product consultancy.

Yet, just as they have propelled apparel spending in the last decade — in part because of their sheer numbers — Boomers are expected to continue spending, at least into 2005.

The Baby Boomer generation, most commonly defined as those born between 1946 and 1964, will be between ages 41 and 59 in 2005. They are often seen as two separate groups: the Leading-Edge Boomers and the Trailing-Edge Boomers, or Late Boomers. Leading-Edge Boomers are generally those born between 1946 and 1953 and consist of between 37 million to 38 million people, while Late Boomers are those born between 1954 and 1964.

“Boomers “were in their 20s in the mid-Sixties during modern feminism, the [Vietnam] war, environmentalism. They had the attitudes and style and the thought leadership of the kind of revolution in values which affected the revolution of fashion, as well,” said Green, who cited London designer Mary Quant as one who has forever shaped the fashion focus of Boomer women.
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