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.

According to a December report from Ernst & Young LLP, “Baby Boomers in the United States might not have the income needed to retire early, and the cost of medical insurance, a necessity for older Americans, could rise exponentially. In addition, payouts for Social Security and Medicare might be constrained in the years ahead.” The first Boomers will turn 65 in 2011.

Yet, while Boomers will apparently remain self-indulgent in 2005, overall apparel and footwear spending by American consumers now appears to be losing momentum.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, real personal consumption expenditures on clothing and footwear rose 5 percent in the most recent third quarter from the third quarter of 2003. Comparatively, though, real PCEs on clothing and footwear in the third quarter of 2003 over the same period of 2002 rose 7 percent.

Despite the slowdown in apparel spending, retailers see plenty of opportunity in serving older demographic sets, a space that has been dominated by department stores as well as specialty retailers such as Chico’s FAS and Talbots. And there are new players entering the field.

Gymboree Corp., with its Janeville concept, and Gap Inc. have announced plans to roll out stores next year aimed at women in their mid-30s and older. Meanwhile, start-up Iziz Dezigns has launched a shopping concept, the Atelier Avocado Collection, which features made-to-measure clothing aimed at women 35 and older. It is set to roll out nationwide in 2005.

Boomer Fact Sheet
  • Annual spending power: $1.1 trillion.

  • Annual average spending per household: $45,000 to $46,000.

  • Apparel spending: 13 percent higher than other age groups.

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