This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of clothing; furnishings; and accessories for men, women, and children. Generally referred to as retail family clothing stores, this industry includes jeans stores and unisex clothing stores, but excludes stores targeted at one sex or age group.
448140 (Family Clothing Stores)
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 there were 150,900 apparel and accessory stores and roughly 20,900 retail family clothing stores in the United States, with sales totaling more than $44.8 billion annually. The clothing store industry was highly competitive, and marketing research, advertising, and sales promotions were central to these companies' operations. Other factors affecting sales in this industry included national economic trends, regional population growth, seasonal factors such as weather and holidays, and dramatic changes in fashions and clothing trends.
According to the National Retail Federation, the vast majority of family clothing outlets in the late 1990s were chain stores; roughly 20 percent of these were operated as franchises. Family clothing stores were either chain stores (including department stores) or independently owned.
The large companies that owned clothing outlets across the nation generally operated distribution centers where clothes were received from the manufacturers and shipped to the outlets. Unlike warehouses, these distribution centers did not store items for a long period of time; generally goods stayed at a distribution center for only about 48 hours before being shipped to the retail stores that had placed the orders. The link between manufacturer and retailer was maintained by manufacturers' sales representatives and the retailers' merchandise buyers.
Small clothing retailers generally did not own distribution centers, though they still received items that were held at these centers. These smaller retailers tended to purchase inventory from distributors who represented several manufacturers. These retailers also ordered items solicited through distributor catalogs.
The organization of the retail family clothing store industry has changed since the beginning of the 1990s. The 1991 recession caused many firms to buy other, usually smaller, retailers. With these mergers, the decentralized purchasing practices of smaller retail chains were centralized and handled strictly by the main office, thereby cutting down on the number of buyers employed by any one company.
The internal structure of companies in this industry varied. Some companies made buying trips to manufacturers and wholesalers, while other companies were called on by manufacturers' representatives. These companies also differed in the way that the various internal departments related to one another. In some companies, buyers and merchandise managers worked closely with the advertising department in deciding the type of promotional media to use and the layout of item displays. Other companies hired autonomous advertising agencies for the promotional aspects of the business. Some retail clothing stores sold clothes under their own brand name. In these cases, the retailer typically designed the clothes and had them produced by a clothing manufacturer, while the retailer maintained a staff of employees to monitor the work of the manufacturers.
The advent of discount retailers has affected the structure of family clothing stores. These retailers have gained large market share by offering low cost, high quality merchandise as well as maintaining low overhead costs.
Retail family clothing stores originated in America during colonial times. In these early days, stores were extensions of tailor shops. There were few stores relative to the size of the growing population, however, because owning a variety of clothes was considered a luxury. During the 1800s, with the expansion westward, clothing retailers were mostly manufacturers who sold their merchandise through catalogs. In the late 1800s, with innovations in mass manufacturing and the growth of cities most retail clothing stores began operating exclusive of tailor shops.
During the twentieth century, retail family clothing stores moved from individually run small stores to regional chains, and then, in the 1990s, to nationwide chains of large stores. This consolidation trend resulted from stores moving from smaller spaces in the cities during the 1970s and 1980s into suburban shopping malls, where larger store space and new buildings were available. Such vast quantities of space also facilitated the growth of off-price retail stores, which offered discounted merchandise in large superstores, such as Wal-Mart, or in regional outlets, such as Hit or Miss.
Typically, off-price clothing outlets were in more favorable, remote suburban or newly developed areas where real estate was inexpensive, or they were in suburban shopping strips with other off-price retailers. Lower costs meant higher profits for such establishments. These outlets also kept prices down by purchasing large volumes at low prices from manufacturers; usually manufacturers were not able to profit on the items—often due to the rapid change in fashion trends—and were only seeking to cut their losses.
Other types of stores to emerge from the growth of suburban shopping were price clubs, warehouse stores, and hypermarkets. Price clubs and warehouse stores, where customers could purchase clothes at significantly reduced prices, also resulted in part from the recession at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. Hypermarkets also featured reduced prices, but their appeal was in the variety of stores and services offered under one roof. Often referred to as "malls without walls," these stores first appeared in France. All of these larger stores carried an average of 40,000 items at any given time, compared with 25,000 items at typical retail family clothing outlets.
Despite the growth in store size, automation did little to change the basic operations in stores. Computerized cash registers allowed for more efficient management of money and inventory, but these systems were not fully employed throughout the industry. In some cases, the retailer did not have the capital to pay for point-of-sale scanners that record the exact item sold, including color and size, and related technologies, in addition to the costs of retraining employees.
The retail family clothing store industry has also made significant marketing changes and advances over the years. The marketing abilities of individual establishments were key within this highly competitive industry. The primary factors in the marketing mix were marketing research and promotion.
Marketing research, in the retail family clothing industry, has traditionally come from knowledge of what items sell the most or have the fastest turnover. Sales staff and inventory workers monitored merchandise levels, and successful retailers later supplemented their employees' knowledge with electronic inventory controls, such as point-of-sale scanners. For example, Russell Mitchell of Business Week attributed a large part of The Gap's success as the fastest growing company in this industry during the early 1990s to "its high-tech distribution network that keeps 1,200 Gap stores constantly stocked with fresh merchandise." The basics of supply and demand are quite evident in this industry.
The family clothing store industry also conducted its marketing research by surveying customers and various representative groups in the population. At the same time, this industry frequently surveyed the effectiveness of its television and radio commercials and magazine advertisements, its three main forms of advertising.
Other companies in the retail family clothing industry experimented with interactive television as a way of promoting and selling clothing. In 1994, Nordstrom, Inc., an industry leader, began an operation using catalogs and interactive television. Similar to home-shopping networks, the television portion involved displaying the items on television with call-in numbers for ordering; however, added to this was the idea of viewers calling in to see items in the catalogs and asking questions about them, along the lines of call-in talk shows. Nordstrom predicted that these types of events would bring in $50 to $100 million in sales annually in two to three years.
Low-budget marketing strategies have also worked well in this industry. For example, Wal-Mart stores spent about one-third as much on advertising as their competitors; they did not run many promotional sales, but they did keep prices low at all times. In 1996 and 1997, Wal-Mart began a "Falling Prices" program, backed by both television and print media. The aim of the campaign was that even though Wal-Mart had low prices, it would continually drop them even lower. Wal-Mart also utilized employees and their family members in place of professional models in their advertisements to help lower costs and improve company image.
Another strategy was to use a sale on one product line to draw customers into a store. One company to use this approach successfully was Goody's Family Clothing Stores. Forbes described the company's strategy: "Jeans are great bait. In the past five years Goody's sales and earnings have tripled, and the number of stores it leases and operates in small towns throughout the Southeast has almost doubled. The jeans shelves are in the back of Goody's stores, meaning customers must walk as much as 35 yards past racks of merchandise on which Goody's makes its real money."
Other marketing factors that characterized retail family clothing businesses were service and location. Consumers often formed their impressions of a store by the courtesy and efficiency of its sales staff. The Nordstrom clothing stores built their reputation on their courteous sales staff, which became part of their marketing strategy. Nordstrom knew that it was the only U.S. department store chain that had employees who would change flat tires and carry bags to customers' cars. Location was important in terms of store visibility and the relative closeness of competitors. A large shopping mall generally has at least two anchor stores for this reason. Anchor stores are considered larger in both product diversity and size. Some key anchor stores are J.C. Penney, Lord and Taylor, Nordstrom, and Hecht's.
Upon entering the 1990s, family clothing retailers were affected by a weak economy and loss of their market share to other types of retailers, namely specialty stores and large department stores. The industry responded by increasing its marketing efforts, stocking more off-price merchandise, and investing in computer systems to predict market trends and reduce operating costs. Increasing marketing efforts included a trend toward scrambled merchandising—selling items normally not carried by a given retailer. This technique allowed retailers to test new merchandise and, at the same time, bring new customers into their stores to buy the standard line of apparel.
The success of off-price retailing during the recessions of the 1970s and 1980s encouraged many family clothing retailers to enter this end of the market as well. Off-price retailing also was helped by the collapse of real estate prices in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cheaper real estate allowed this sector of the industry to acquire the large buildings it needed to move enough volume to sustain a strong profit margin on the reduced-price items.
The weak real estate market also helped to start a new trend of stores moving back into the cities, where downtown areas sought retail operations to fill locations emptied during the late 1980s. Companies with small clothing stores continued to open new stores in downtown areas. In 1992, Russell Mitchell in Business Week described The Gap as "taking advantage of recessionary blues by locking up sweet lease deals, moving into downtown and urban neighborhoods, and opening on the main streets of mid-size cities."
In 1993, retail apparel and accessory stores recorded sales of $106 billion. Although this was an increase of 7 percent (after inflation) over the previous year, it was not as great an increase as the industry witnessed during the 1970s and 1980s. This sector continued to see growth into the mid-1990s.
In 1997, the clothing industry saw approximately $170 billion in retail sales. Women's apparel brought in $89.4 billion, men's apparel accounted for $50.8 billion, and children's wear captured $29 billion. Family clothing stores alone accounted for $45.1 billion in sales. According to the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, the breakdown on total share of retail sales was as follows: specialty stores, 22 percent; discounters, 19 percent; department stores, 19 percent; major chains, 17 percent; off-price stores, 7 percent; mail order, 6 percent; outlets, 4 percent; and other stores, 7 percent.
This industry remained quite competitive in the late 1990s. Successful advertising campaigns and Internet marketing were key in attracting new and existing customers. For example, in the first period of 1999, The Gap spent $122.5 million in advertising for its stores, including Old Navy and Banana Republic; this figure was an increase of 84 percent from the previous year.
Online shopping also became much more popular in the late 1990s. According to the National Retail Federation, Internet retail sales surpassed $17 billion in the year 2000 and reached some $40 billion in 2002. Clothing retailers have jumped aboard the superhighway and have started to use the Internet to offer online shopping and to market their products. Some retailers began offering their catalogs online as well and would even e-mail customers with updates, promotions, and fashion information.
Off-price retailing continued to play a major role in this industry in the late 1990s. With the success of Wal-Mart and the TJX Corporation, other family clothing retailers were forced to offer quality merchandise and lower costs. The Gap, for instance, had seen remarkable success with its Old Navy stores; these stores offered Gap-like merchandise, at lower prices.
Successful introduction of private label brands, such as Wal-Mart's Kathie Lee line and Target's Xhileration line, have also chipped away at traditional family clothing stores' market share. With clothing offered at lower prices, apparel has experienced a price deflation in the late 1990s. According to the American Statistics Index, "apparel consumers are demanding a greater selection of good quality merchandise at low price as well as added convenience in readily finding merchandise."
According to WSL's survey "How America Shops" as reported by Women's Wear Daily in 2002, 46 percent of consumers shop for most of their clothes at department stores, down from 53 percent in 2001. Mass markets held 17 percent of the market, and specialty stores soared from 3 percent in 2001 to 16 percent in 2002. However, a similar survey conducted by Retail Forward found that discounters garnered 36 percent of shoppers' purchases of casual wear and 20 percent of dress wear. Fourteen percent of consumer bought the majority of their casual wear at department stores and 21 percent of their dress wear. According to the Zandl Group, yet another marketing research firm, specialty stores have grown in popularity with the 13-to 25-year-old segment and department stores have declined in popularity with the same age group.
As the retail clothing industry waited out the slow economy and the freeze on spending in the midst of the war initiated by the United States on Iraq in 2003, industry analysts attempted to foresee the future of the industry. During the twentieth century traditional family clothing stores were outpaced by department stores, which were then themselves overcome by discounters. Whereas some predict the eventual extinction of the department store chains and the relegation of traditional family stores to high-end specialty shops during the twenty-first century, others see cracks in the mass merchants' future hold on consumers.
Mass merchants, such as Wal-Mart, rely on moving massive volumes of inventory to keep the profit margin thin yet still profitable. Department stores have a larger profit margin but less merchandise, and specialty shops rely on an even higher profit margin but even less selection. How these three distinct formats for family clothing will balance the three basic ingredients to retail success—convenience, value, and price—remains to be seen. Mass merchants' may continue to pull shoppers away from malls so long as they can continue to move enough volume to sustain the giant operations that they have become.
The industry leaders in gross annual sales in 2002 were Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (owner of Sam's Clubs) with more than $244.5 billion in total sales for all departments; The Gap, Inc., with $14.5 billion in sales; The TJX Companies, Inc. (owners of Marshalls and TJ Maxx stores) with $12 billion in 2002 sales; and Nordstrom with $6 billion in sales.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. stood as the world's largest retailer in 2003. Wal-Mart was founded by two brothers, Sam and J. L. (Bud) Walton, who entered the clothing industry as owners of Ben Franklin franchises in Arkansas. In 1962 the Waltons opened their first store, Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas, in order to reduce prices more than the Ben Franklin franchises would allow at the time. The brothers soon opened stores in other small towns and, by 1970, they had 18 Wal-Mart Stores in addition to 15 Ben Franklin franchises.
During the 1970s, Wal-Mart built its own warehouses to cut costs and exercise greater influence over the channels of distribution. Under this system, the company would buy in volume and store the merchandise at the warehouses, gradually build a network of stores within 200 miles of each warehouse. This system was used throughout the 1990s.
By the end of the 1970s, Wal-Mart owned and operated in-store pharmacies, auto service centers, and jewelry and shoe divisions. In 1980, Wal-Mart stores appeared in 11 states, taking in a total of $1.25 billion annually. The 1980s marked the company's greatest period of growth and the opening of its Sam's Clubs, which were discount warehouses, and its Hypermarket USA, a combination discount department store and grocery store with restaurants, banks, video rentals, and other services. With prices reduced by up to 40 percent, the Hypermarket USA store grew rapidly in popularity, and, by 1992, Wal-Mart had opened four of these stores. By 1992, Wal-Mart employed more than 28,800 workers and owned several other subsidiaries, such as Kuhn's Big K Stores Corp.; North Arkansas Wholesale Co., Inc.; and Wal-Mart Properties.
Wal-Mart has been criticized over the years for forcing small retailers out of business with its location strategies and buying practices. Wal-Mart typically dealt directly with manufacturers, bypassing their sales representatives and distributor representatives, which made it more difficult for independent retail buyers to conduct business and increased Wal-Mart's profit margin. By 2003, the company had a store volume larger than Sears, Kmart, Dayton Hudson, and J.C. Penney combined. Wal-Mart operated 4,600 stores, including supercenters and Sam's Clubs, and employed nearly 1.4 million workers.
Another notable industry leader was The Gap, Inc., which has been one of the top retailers in America since its beginnings. The company was started by Donald Fisher and his wife Doris in 1969. After Donald could not find Levi's jeans in his size in a department store, he realized that market demand for jeans strongly outweighed the supply. The Gap started with a small shop near San Francisco State University, which carried only records and Levi's jeans, a combination that appealed to young people. The success of The Gap concept was almost immediate, and Fisher added outlets throughout the San Francisco area.
The company grew during the 1970s with the acceptance of jeans as casual wear by people of all ages; however, baby boomers still made up the majority of Gap customers. In 1971, The Gap's sales stood at $2.5 million annually and, by 1976, sales were up to $97 million annually with 186 stores in 21 states. The company's success was also helped by Levi's, which remained the only brand Gap carried and extensively advertised.
With the recession at the end of the 1970s and the baby boomers growing out of blue jeans fashion, Gap began experiencing financial difficulties. The company reacted by changing its line of clothes to a larger variety of casual items and by selling more of its own labels. In the early 1980s, The Gap was revamped after it hired Mickey Drexler to be its new president. Under Drexler, The Gap would only carry Gap-labeled clothes and emphasize natural fibers and casual clothing styles that would appeal to both genders and a wide age range.
Upon entering the 1990s, Gap's earnings were $225 million annually, including the company's principle subsidiaries, GapKids and Banana Republic clothing stores. The Gap expanded the size of its stores to accommodate new lines of less casual, dressier clothes. At the same time, the clothing chain converted some of its poorest performing stores into warehouse stores to compete in the discount clothing market. In 1996, Gap's sales totaled $5.28 billion, and a total of 1,854 stores were in operation.
By the late 1990s, Gap was extremely successful. With $824.5 million in net income—an increase of 54.4 percent from 1997—the company was becoming increasingly popular by its television ads and the emergence of its Old Navy stores. In 1999, The Gap had more than 1500 stores—including GapKids and BabyGap—in the United States, 297 U.S. Banana Republic stores, and 442 Old Navy Stores. Continuing to grow rapidly into the twenty-first century, in 2002 Gap's sales totaled $14.5 billion, and a total of 2,450 stores worldwide were in operation
TJX Companies, Inc., the industry's third largest leader in sales, was considered the world's number one off-price family clothes store. In 1998, the company had $424.2 million in net income, an increase of 39.2 percent over 1997. Employees totaled 62,000.
The company was incorporated in 1962 as Zayre Corp., which was a chain of department stores based in New England. In 1969, Zayre bought the Hit or Miss chain, which moved the corporation towards the upscale off-price clothing market. During the 1970s, the Hit or Miss chain grew rapidly across the country. By 1977, Zayre decided to expand further into the off-price clothing market by opening its first T.J. Maxx store.
Both Hit or Miss and T.J. Maxx prospered during the late 1970s as a result of the recession. Zayre then expanded its off-price fashion operations into the mail-order market by forming Chadwick's of Boston. Chadwick's sold women's clothes and accessories, the same brands found in Hit or Miss, through catalogs.
The 1980s saw growth for off-price fashion retailing, but not for Zayre's department stores. Competition from Wal-Mart, Kmart, and other large department store chains forced Zayre to make large investments in its clothing stores. By 1986, the company had 420 Hit or Miss stores throughout the United States. By 1987, the company restructured, with T.J. Maxx becoming the major subsidiary, and sold 400 of its Zayre stores to Ames Department Stores, Inc.
In the early 1990s, the T.J. Maxx stores were the company's leading business, and Chadwick's of Boston was also performing well. However, Hit or Miss stores were feeling the strain of competition and a weak economy. In 1995, TJX sold both the Hit or Miss and the Chadwick's divisions, and it purchased Marshalls, Inc. for $550 million within the same year. Marshalls had been TJ Maxx's direct competition. In 1996, TJX Companies had 578 T.J. Maxx stores and 454 Marshalls throughout the United States. The company employed a total of 38,000 people.
By the late 1990s, TJX operated over 620 T.J. Maxx stores. With sales and profits increasing, the company also operated Winners Apparel (a Canadian chain of family clothing stores), HomeGoods, A.J. Wright, and T.K. Maxx. In 2002 TJX reported a net income of $578 million on $12 billion in sales and employed 89,000.
Another industry leader for retail family clothing stores was Nordstrom, Inc. Founded in 1901 by the Nordstroms, a family of Swedish immigrants, in Seattle, Washington, the company started out in the shoe business and did not sell clothing until 1960, when it purchased Best Apparel, a women's clothing store. In 1966, the company purchased Nicholas Ungar, a retail fashion outlet, and soon began selling men's clothes. By 1968, under the ownership of a third generation of the Nordstrom family, the company achieved $40 million in annual sales. Within a few years, expansion allowed sales to double to $80 million. The company grew at a steady pace for the remainder of the 1970s by diversifying with a large variety of clothing departments within each store.
By the start of the 1980s, the company had expanded to offer stores in southern California, Alaska, Oregon, Utah, and Montana. Later in the 1980s, the chain started opening stores on the East Coast. Despite diversification and growth over the years, however, shoes still accounted for 20 percent of Nordstroms' sales.
Also during this period the company developed its reputation for having exceptionally friendly sales people who would do things like change customers'flat tires in the parking lot, deliver merchandise to offices, and send tailors to people's homes. However, in 1989, a group of unionized employees charged that they were not being paid for providing such extra services. As a result, the government forced Nordstrom to change its compensation and record-keeping policies.
Upon entering the 1990s, the recession caused Nordstrom's sales to drop for the first time in the company's history. Despite this setback, the company continued to expand into new regional markets. In 1995, women's clothes and accessories accounted for 58 percent of Nordstrom's sales; men's clothes, 16 percent; and shoes, 20 percent.
By the end of the decade, Nordstroms had operations in 23 states and remained known for its upscale apparel and excellent service. Net income in 1998 was $206.7 million, up 11 percent from 1997. The company operated more than 70 stores and 25 outlets and had more than 42,000 employees. In 2002 the company reported a net income of $90 million on $6 billion in sales and employed 50,000.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2001 the family clothing industry employed 455,680 people. Of this total, 363,810, or nearly 80 percent, were sales-related positions. In all, sales associates accounted for almost 60 percent and were paid a mean annual salary of $17,140. Managers and supervisors earned an annual salary of $30,070. Office and administrative support occupations totaled 10 percent and had a mean annual salary of $19,520. Retail and wholesale purchases, which accounted for less than 0.5 percent of the workforce, earned an annual salary of $43,140. Chief executives earned an average $104,960 annually and general managers and sales managers earned $52,110 and $56,550, respectively. Part-time sales positions in this industry were expected to be most available due to turnover. In addition, sales staff would continue to be hired on a temporary basis during peak selling periods, such as Christmas and tourist seasons.
As the American apparel market matured in the late 1990s, international operations became increasingly necessary. With little room to grow in the United States, companies looked overseas to boost revenue and income. The Gap, for instance, had penetrated certain markets abroad by 1999. The company operated—including GapKids and babyGap—121 stores in Canada, 35 stores in France, 12 stores in Germany, 39 stores in Japan, and 114 stores in the United Kingdom. Banana Republic had operations in Canada, as did Nordstroms.
The Asian economic crisis was expected to affect apparel sales abroad, as the region experienced a recession in 1998 and 1999. However, the advent of the Euro was expected to make entry into European markets more attractive. According to Wal-Mart' 1999 annual report, "the company's foreign operations are comprised of wholly owned operations in Argentina, Canada, Germany, and Puerto Rico; joint ventures in China and Korea; and majority-owned subsidiaries in Brazil and Mexico. As a result, the company's financial results could be affected by factors such as changes in foreign currency exchange rates or weak economic conditions in the foreign markets in which the company does business."
The apparel industry was also seen as having a smoother entry into foreign markets compared to others. A 1998 Stores article stated that "apparel retailing is one of the most viable businesses on a global scale. Several key strategic advantages set it apart from other formats, including that apparel is extremely merchandise and marketing driven, has a relatively narrow focus, and can produce high gross margins sufficient to offset occupancy costs and still provide a superior profit margin."
Developing technology to improve the channels of distribution remained an essential component of the future growth of the retail family clothing store industry in 1999. Like other retail businesses, establishments in this industry continually increased their reliance on computers, which simplified many of the routine buying functions and improved the efficiency of in-store sales staff. Retail buyers and merchandisers came to rely upon point-of-sale computer terminals, rather than manual on-hand counts, for up-to-date inventory and sales information. Point-of-sale data came directly from an item's bar code as it was sold and provided information regarding price, model number, color, and size.
Another growing trend in the apparel industry was the use of the Internet to sell clothing. In 1999, Gap teamed up with America Online Inc. (AOL) to offer its clothing line in AOL's online marketplace. More than 46 million members had access to Gap apparel as a result of the deal. The company's Web site also offered online shopping in 1999, and it launched Web sites for Banana Republic and Old Navy in 1998.
With Internet sales expected to increase to nearly $30 billion by 2001, family clothing stores faced increased competition not only from large discount chains, but from Internet entrepreneurs as well. Many chains also had to add IT and IS specialists to their workforce as a result of technology trends.
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