Its very hard times in London for fashion retailers, but even tougher for denim retailers as the denim market remains under pressure. Global denim sales are still on the rise, thanks to an increasing middle class in countries such as China – however a recent study from Euro monitor has revealed a slump in sales in the industry’s core markets, Western Europe and North America. Even though jeans are unlikely to disappear from our wardrobes anytime soon, a shift in consumer preferences concerning the fit, performance and price of denim is taking its toll on the market. The rise of the yoga pants and ‘athleisure’ (casual wear)has help lead to a crisis in the denim industry, as traditional indigo jeans struggle to find their place in today’s fashion landscape.
In this in-depth study, Fashion United looks at how issues concerning fit, comfort and performance are affecting the global denim market and what new innovations are emerging to help brands and retailers overcome them.
The denim market is under pressure due to issues with fit and comfort
One of the main reasons the denim market is currently feeling squeezed is linked to the shift in consumers preference towards fit and expectations of how the product should perform. In the past, denim jeans used to be made from 100 percent cotton to ensure its longevity. It was after all, the uniform of the working class and therefore needed to be as durable as possible. However, this also meant that the fabric was thick and stiff and needed to be worn in by the wearer for a certain amount of time to achieve that perfect fit. Raw denim enthusiasts are known to wear their jeans in the bath, in the ocean and to wash them as little as possible to cultivate the perfect, authentic pair of jeans.
But recently consumers attitudes towards denim and fit have begun to shift – now they demand products which already offer that worn in look and perfect fit. The level of comfort offered by jeans has also become important as men and women alike have been pursuing a slimmer silhouette and tighter fit all-round. Which is why synthetic fibres such as elastane and polyester have been blended in with cotton yarn to offer wearers certain amount of stretch. Although most skinny jeans do offer wearers a certain amount of comfort thanks to the addition of stretch, it has not stopped consumers from searching for softer, more comfortable and better fitting bottoms. Even Levi’s has felt the pressure to conform to consumers demands and is releasing it’s iconic 501 jeans with stretch.
Athleisure and sportswear tighten their squeeze on the denim market
“People still love to wear jeans,” said Jean Hegedus, Invista’s global denim segment director to FashionUnited during Kingpins 6th edition in Amsterdam. “But they also love to take them off when they come home and put on a pair of leggings or comfortable bottoms – especially if they have been sitting behind a desk for 8 hours.” sportswear Thanks to the rise of leggings and comfortable sportswear bottoms consumers across the world have been substituting a portion of their denim wardrobe with these comfier alternatives. Data backs this up – a recent report from Slice Intelligence found that the online purchase of leggings and bottoms increased 41 per cent in 2016, while the purchase of jeans only grew 3 per cent in the same year.
But not only as customers buying more sportswear bottoms – they are also willing to pay more for them as well. A study from research specialist Fung Global Retail & Technology and technological agency First Insight found that on average customers are only willing to pay 74 per cent of the recommended retail price for a pair of jeans, in comparison to 82 per cent of the recommended retail price for a pair of sportswear bottoms. However, considering that the average woman has 10 pairs of jeans in her closet, it should come as little surprise that she would rather spend her money on something else. The skinny jean in particular has become the posterchild for the lack of newness within the denim industry and has been linked to its decline in sales.