Canadian Women Dress Down for Success

Female Millennials investing more money in everyday apparel as offices become more casual

TORONTO, March 24, 2014 – Offices across Canada are becoming increasingly casual, and women are dressing the part. According to recent fashion market research from leading global information company The NPD Group, women’s wear-to-work apparel purchases declined by four percent in 2013 compared to a year ago and now rank second in consumer consideration after clothing purchased for casual / everyday use (up three per cent year over year).

Of the $2.1 billion women’s wear-to-work market in Canada, Millennials (18-34 year olds) account for nearly one third of purchases, but have traditionally held back on their spend. Particularly passionate about getting a good deal, more than half of the work clothes female Millennial consumers bought were on sale, and many have redirected their money away from Specialty stores (down eight per cent) to Off-Price and Department retailers (up 16 and 10 per cent respectively).

“Even though we’re seeing declines in this category – particularly amongst younger shoppers – retailers don’t need to panic about the future of work wear,” said Sandy Silva, fashion industry analyst at The NPD Group. “With this group in the early stages of its career, there is plenty of time for retailers to capture consumer attention by blurring the lines between wear-to-work merchandise and more casual pieces.”

Shopping for the purpose of buying wear-to-work apparel was true of 40 per cent of Millennial women, while 25 per cent said that although they did plan to purchase clothes for the office, doing so was not their primary reason for hitting the stores. Meanwhile, 35 per cent had no intention of buying work clothes at all, but did pick up a few items on impulse.

Within the wear- to-work category, the pieces that have sold particularly well year over year include jackets / blazers (+ 74 per cent), skirts (+ 22 per cent), casual pants (+ 12 per cent) and dress shirts (+ eight per cent). However, when compared to older age groups, Millennials typically spend the least on wear-to-work apparel, so retailers should always be conscious of their pricing strategy as it relates to this target market, says NPD’s Silva.

“Our research reveals that Millennials remain brand conscious and committed to the overall shopping experience,” she continues. “Further, though these women are not at a stage in their careers where they’re making a big investment in their work wardrobes, they’re still very open to pairing higher-end pieces with everyday basics, and will justify spending more money if there is a sense of value in the purchase.”

Wear-to-work apparel that has been on the decline includes sweaters (- 30 per cent), dress pants (- 26 per cent), fitted t-shirts worn under blazers / cardigans (- 21 per cent), dressy jeans (- 21 per cent) and dresses (- 10 per cent), suggesting that though fewer companies require their employees to “suit up”, many have not completely abandoned a traditional office dress code. Instead, Canadian women are combining separate pieces for a look that transitions easily from work to leisure.

Study Methodology:
The data in this study was collected from The NPD Group’s Online Panel. Online collection is based on North American shopping behaviour and purchase information made by individual Canadian consumers in the last seven days. Surveys are emailed each day of the week and approximately 23,000 responses are received per month, with 13,500 individuals having purchased at least one Apparel/Basics item. Sample is demographically weighted and projected to represent the Canadian population, and data is calibrated to Statistics Canada, retailer financials and client inputs.

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Kylee Berencsi
APEX Public Relations

The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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