Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Major Brands' Share of Jeans Market Fades

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Major Brands' Share of Jeans Market Fades

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blue jeans market is red hot.

Sales of men's and women's jeans totaled $8.7 billion last year - - a robust 10 percent increase over the $7.9 billion recorded in 1995, according to NPD Group Inc., a market research firm in Port Washington, N.Y.

Retail analysts attribute the boom to teenagers, who are out in droves buying all manner of retro `60s, `70s and `80s clothing -- especially bell-bottom and hip-hugger jeans. As a result, jeans sales are "running ahead of schedule compared to last year," said Gus Floris, associate publisher of Sportswear International, a trade magazine in New York. "And the biggest group buying jeans are teenagers. They own like eight pairs on average." The sales boost is certainly good news for the denim industry, but not necessarily for tried-and-true brands like Levi, Lee and Gap. Retail watchers say those labels have been facing stiff competition from the recent influx of department store brands as well as major designers like Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren Polo and small jeans makers targeting hipsters. J.C. Penney's Arizona denim line grossed about $1 billion last year and Sears has sold about $200 million worth of its Canyon River Blues denim clothing in the last year-and-a-half. Alan Millstein, editor of Fashion Network Report in New York, said that since some chains now have their own jeans line, Levi and Lee - - both of which are sold at numerous retailers -- have lost shelf and rack space in department stores. Designers have come on strong in the last two years as well, analysts said. Guess, which has always targeted the youth market, is hotter than ever with its stretch denim, pastel-colored jeans. Calvin Klein's CK jeans are big with the young, urban adult crowd and Hilfiger's baggy jeans have the lock on the teenage boys market, analysts said. "Designers are hot because they are superb marketers," Millstein surmised. Several "put $20 million behind their ad campaigns." In fact, retail experts say there are now so many new players crowding the jeans market that stalwart manufacturers have found themselves grasping for teen dollars even though industry sales are growing. …

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