March 29 (Reuters) - American men increased their spending on clothing more than women did in 2011, buying more dress clothes in particular as the economy improves, a study showed.
Overall sales of clothes in the United States rose 4 percent to $199 billion in 2011, market researcher the NPD Group said on Thursday.
Separately, ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service revised its outlook for the U.S. apparel industry to “positive” from “stable,” as clothing makers are expected to benefit from cheaper costs for cotton, a key raw material.
Men’s clothing sales rose 4 percent during the year, while women’s grew 3 percent and children’s rose 6 percent, NPD said.
After years of restrained shopping during the economic slowdown, people updated their wardrobes a bit last year.
It “goes back to the ‘Frugal Fatigue’ phenomenon we have been watching,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “It seems to have materialized for apparel in 2011 as consumers finally got back to building their wardrobes again.”
Cohen said men seemed to be dressing better, perhaps to land a new job. Dollar volume sales for men’s dress shirts rose 14 percent, sales of men’s suits increased 23 percent and sport coats were up 20 percent, NPD said.
Women, who make up the biggest market for apparel retailers, were mostly buying dresses and smaller add-on accessories, the study said. They were looking for value for the money spent, not just cheaper prices.
Sales of dresses rose 17 percent, with tights and sheer hosiery sales up 8 percent.
Manufacturer-owned stores posted the highest growth rate, up 15 percent. Off-price and specialty stores both gained 6 percent, NPD said.
Moody’s upgraded its outlook on the U.S. apparel industry as it expects the moderate U.S. recovery to continue, with GDP for 2012 predicted to grow 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent.
Jobs growth and a gradual recovery in the autos and housing sectors should help increase consumer spending, the agency said.
With the cost of cotton down more than 60 percent over the past year, “these benefits will become noticeable and material in the second half of 2012 and into early 2013,” said Scott Tuhy, a Moody’s vice president.