Intimate Apparel Market Trends and Strategies From The NPD Group

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

During the February 2019 CURVE NEWS YORK show, Todd Mick, Executive Director, and Kristen Classi-Zummo, Manager, Market Insights for The NPD Group’s fashion apparel business shared these valuable insights into today’s changing consumer and the intimate apparel market.

The share-stealing game in today’s mature intimate apparel market is being driven by new brands entering the space. The total intimates market grew 1 percent due to growth in the sports bra (+6 percent) and shapewear (+15 percent) categories. Non-sport bras hold the majority of the intimate market share, followed by panties, sports bras, shapewear, and daywear. This information helps brands and retailers assess the competition and develop competitive strategies.

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Intimate apparel brands and retailers can explore at least four approaches to success in the market – retail and product innovations, values and community, eCommerce excellence and direct-to-consumer, and merchandising and in-store excellence. Focus can be placed on one or all of these. But, by focusing on one area, the path to success is direct and can attract a specific type of consumer, whether they’re seeking products or experiences or both.

Positive trends are being seen at department stores where the focus is on designer brands and exclusive offers. NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service shows designer brands with higher price points winning with wealthier boomers, as well as Millennials and Gen Xers. Bras priced $55-75+ saw a $262 million increase in total absolute dollar change in 2018. Moderate price point brands are driving sale increases by appealing to the broader demographic. The largest price segment, $15-24.99, saw $72 million in dollar growth compared to 2017.

Specialty stores own over a third (35 percent) of intimate apparel sales, followed by mass merchants (19 percent), national chains (10 percent), and department stores (9 percent). Direct mail and eCommerce pure-play only make up 9 percent of intimate apparel sales as of the end of 2018 – but these channels offer value and convenience to the end consumer. It is crucial for retailers to uplift their customers with the best service, merchandise, and (if applicable) in-store experience. Working towards optimizing the merchandise mix will help retailers succeed.

Non-traditional channels that offer value and convenience, pure-play and off-price, are gaining share. Online sales, which make up 24 percent of the market dollars, has grown 7 percent, making up for the 3 percent in-store dollar losses. Bras, shapewear, and daywear are all over-performing online, while panties have the most room for growth. The online share of intimates has been steadily growing from 2016 – with total online sales grew a total of 13 percent, and pure-play growing 19 percent from 2016 to 2018. Amazon holds more than a quarter of the total online intimate market, with bras being the #1 bestselling apparel category on the site. Amazon has nearly doubled its intimate apparel sales since 2016, with brands like Wacoal, Calvin Klein, Bali, Spanx, and Panache driving this success. Amazon is the best performing site for online intimate apparel purchases among Millennials and Boomers.

Millennials (age 23-38) drove most of the dollar volume in the intimates category in 2018. Millennials overall across the last 3 years have accounted for the highest intimate spend in the market. Boomers (age 55-73) saw the greatest growth (+6 percent) vs. 2017. It is important for brands and retailers to target their efforts to these age ranges with experience, product features, and product assortment.

Bras (non-sport) remain the top category in the intimate market – holding $5 billion of sales. The top growing designer bras (non-sport) are all similar in the respect that they are supportive pieces. The #1 growing designer bra is the Natori’s Bliss Perfection Comfort Contour Under-Wire Bra, according to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service. Wacoal’s FF Perfect Primer Under-Wire Bra, Chantelle’s Parisian Allure Unlined Plunge Bra, and Spanx’s Bra-Lelujah Wireless Bra, all are top performers on the market as well.

The NPD Group was founded in 1966 and is viewed as the authority on market size and trends by their clients, the financial community, media, and others. They work with more than 2000 of the world’s leading brands and retailers spanning more than 20 industries. NPD’s insights come from a combination of point-of-sale data from over 220,000 doors, as well as e-commerce and mobile platforms, more than 12 million consumer surveys conducted annually, and millions of receipts fueling their Checkout service.

PR Contact:

Janine Marshall

The NPD Group


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