Apparel sales growth was driven by smaller regions such as Orlando

Apparel sales growth was driven by smaller regions such as Orlando

Smaller regional markets in the US such as Orlando and Washington DC may offer the key to retailers looking to grow their sales, according to new research.

Information company The NPD Group says US retail sales for apparel increased 2% in the year to February - but while online dollar sales of apparel increased for most of the top 25 designated market areas (DMA), only a handful grew in-store sales. Orlando and Washington DC enjoyed a strong performance in both stores and online, with the two markets reporting apparel sales growth of 23% and 18% in dollar terms respectively.

In contrast, in-store sales of apparel declined 2%, with the downward trend true for most of the top ten markets. Washington DC was the only one with notable sales growth (+14%).

"The big regions are no longer leading apparel industry sales growth," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group.

"When New York and Los Angeles don’t even make it into the top ten list of DMAs driving apparel growth, we have a big opportunity gap in the market. We need to understand the cause in order for the apparel industry to regain traction moving forward."

Online sales, which now account for 17% of industry dollars, increased 19% with the top markets (New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas-Ft. Worth) seeing double-digit growth.

While online shopping provides convenience to the consumer, it cannot yet deliver the level of impulse purchasing that in-store shopping can. Impulse purchases of apparel occur for 32% of in-store sales, while online only generates impulsive purchases 22% of the time.

"Impulse purchases are the big growth driver, so the strategy of driving traffic to websites needs to exist in tandem with efforts to drive traffic to the stores," added Cohen. "Regardless of regional market size, or method of purchase, the apparel industry needs to engage consumers with something new and different – something they can’t find everywhere."