Blog: Leonie BarrieUS consumers "take a breath" from shopping

Leonie Barrie | 18 June 2012

US consumers reined in their spending for the second month in a row in May, according to figures released last week - but spending levels were high enough to continue nearly two years of consecutive year-on-year growth.

While some industry observers suggest this is further evidence that the economy remains weak, others say shoppers are "simply taking a breath". Official data showed US retail spending fell 0.2% in May compared to April, but sales at clothing and clothing accessories stores were up 0.9%.

Undeterred by a possible slowdown in its largest market, US action sports brand Vans is to expand into athletic footwear as part of a push that includes adding new markets and selling more products directly to consumers to more than double sales to $2.2bn in five years. The VF Corporation-owned skatewear specialist plans to add $1bn in revenues by 2016, with around half of this coming from the Americas.

In other news, the European Parliament has backed a planned reform of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) system that will see high or upper middle income countries lose tariff breaks for their textile and clothing exports to the European Union from 2014. The vote by MEPs means that from 1 January 2014, EU trade preferences will focus on poorer, developing countries.

And up to 50,000 Bangladeshi garment workers are protesting in a bid to win a 50% pay hike and subsidised food to cope with rising living costs. Scores of demonstrators and police have been injured in violent clashes involving workers at 300 factories in Ashulia, near the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

The protests come as separate figures showed Bangladeshi garment export growth saw a sharp decline in the first 11 months of the current fiscal year.

But instead of trying to build their businesses by seeking cheaper production and new locations for their stores, maybe retailers would be better off switching their focus from the younger fashion market to a more mature one. Figures suggest there will be more over-65s than 15-30 year olds throughout the developed world by the end of this decade - but they're woefully underserved by retailers and are spending their money elsewhere.


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