Blog: Leonie BarrieBack-to-school shapes sales

Leonie Barrie | 6 September 2010

Last-minute spending on back-to-school products provided a welcome lift to many retailers in August, helping the latest monthly sales results to come in ahead of expectations. Bolstered by promotions, sales at stores open more than a year - a key gauge of retail demand - grew by 3.4% in August. Apparel sales benefited from tax-free weekends in three large states, and may have been even stronger if hot and dry weather had not curbed demand for warmer autumn fashion ranges that began arriving in stores.

For retailers including Gap and Zara, the internet is seen as a key driver of business in Europe, with both launching e-commerce sites in the past week. Perhaps the biggest question though, is what took them so long? The success of fashion e-tailers like Asos suggests that going online is a win-win proposition, but there has been an element of 'if we're going to do it, we'll do it properly' about the recent launches.

Fashion brands are also adding the shape of their shoppers to sizing considerations in a bid to broaden their appeal. Levi's new Curve ID jeans, for example, uses a fit system based on curves and follows a study of 60,000 body scans by the company. While shape is not replacing size, it is increasingly being used to differentiate and attract shoppers with different body shapes.

Meanwhile, US textile and cotton groups have hit out at a suggested package of trade concessions to help Pakistan recover from the recent flood disaster, saying the US government should send humanitarian aid to Pakistan instead of US jobs. The comments were made in response to a proposal by the US Chamber of Commerce to grant one-way trade concessions to Pakistan in the form of duty-free treatment for certain textile and apparel products as a way to help the flood-ravaged country.

And a recent study has shown that US import prices in the year to 31 May have fallen in the case of nine of the country's ten largest clothing suppliers. During the 12-month period the average price of US clothing imports dropped to its lowest level in over 20 years, after the elimination of safeguard restrictions against US imports of certain items from China at the end of 2008 meant there was no upper limit to the supplies available and exporters were forced to lower their prices to compete for orders.


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