Shoppers still want skinny jeans, and that’s a problem for retailers

Dive Brief:

  • Apparel retailers selling jeans are eager for a new trend in the spacebut, despite fashion gurus who say skinny jeans are out, consumers are hanging on to them, according to Bloomberg News[1].

  • March data from trend forecasting firm WGSN shows that skinny jeans made up 54% of stores’ new full-price jean assortments, and other jean styles are failing to compete.

  • In fact, stores are selling under 10% of bootcut and slouchy “boyfriend” styles, according to that report. Flared styles have seen a boost (11%), thanks to a resurgence of 70s-influenced style, and slim fits are at 14%. But even sought-after cropped styles, faring well at 25%, include skinny versions.

Dive Insight:

On a conference call with analysts last week, Urban Outfitters founder-CEO Richard Hayne put his finger on a problem that is vexing many apparel retailers these days: there’s no real reason[2] for women to fill their closets with new clothes, and jeans are a major part of that. 

“The last major fashion shift was 10 years ago when the skinny bottom returned to popularity,” he said. “Since then we’ve had all varieties of skinny…Today, the customer has a closet full of various skinny bottoms and she has many many long tops and sweaters to go over them. Without a fashion need to drive her purchases, the customer can easily defer her apparel spend.” 

The situation for retailers, he also said, is a “major fashion shift.”

“I’m not predicting exactly when that change will come, but I’m certain it will,” he said.

WGSN retail analyst Sidney Morgan-Petro told Bloomberg that skinny jeans are here to stay, and that, if anything, retailers face more competition selling them because all have boosted their jeans offerings. According to Bloomberg, Urban Outfitters’ sister brand Free People has tried to move the needle towards other styles like wider legs, but to no avail. Skinny still reigns supreme. 

“At the end of the day, the skinny jean is still the top-selling, top-ranking, most stocked style,” said Morgan-Petro. “And it’s probably going to remain that way for some time.”

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