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.

In turn, Baby Boomers have become luxury consumers because they, among the most recent generations to pass through middle age, have the most money and the willingness to spend it.

“People are going to have a lot more income and purchasing power for luxury,” said Pedraza, who thinks consumer spending on luxury apparel will remain healthy, although he — like others — expects some deceleration over the next year.

“Some people are very classic in the way they buy their clothes,” Pedraza explained. “They go back to…the tweeds, the pure classics that we used to identify with old money. As you get older, your desire for fashion sort of tempers a little bit. And so that may have an impact…as Baby Boomers age.”

Aside from luxury goods, travel is another area where Boomers tend to spend a lot of money. All-inclusive trips with $20,000 to $30,000 tabs are common, and retailers have realized that Boomers want appropriate, comfortable, yet wrinkle-free travel apparel.

As a result, “travel fashion has become fashion in many circles,” said Green. Retailers such as Recreational Equipment Inc., L.L. Bean and Chico’s, which offers its Traveler’s Collection of stretchy garments, have become popular among traveling (and more health-conscious) Boomers.

However, effortless spending on high-end goods and vacations isn’t an across-the-board characteristic of the Boomer generation. About one-third of Boomers of both genders is considered impoverished, with total assets of $10,000 or less, according to Green.

A study called “The Lives and Times of the Baby Boomers,” released in mid-December by two Duke University sociologists, backs up the claim. While the report said that, “at midlife, the Boomers live with an even higher standard of living than their parents,” it added that “they also live with more [wage] inequality.”

That is, one in 10 Late Boomers is living in poverty at middle age, according to the study, which analyzed data from the 2000 Census.

Meanwhile, a portion of today’s Boomers might have to curb discretionary spending on apparel, as their wallets are strained by rising health-care expenses and the cost of putting their children through college. There’s also the uncertainty over how much Social Security they’ll receive in retirement.
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