Premium denim still hot with U.S. consumers, investors

Thu Sep 3, 2009 11:59pm EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The crowds pressing to enter the booths at a trade show here weren't in line for the buffet or to catch the latest show in town. They were apparel buyers, anxious to place orders for jeans.

Not just any old jeans: premium denim, which uses costlier fabric and more sophisticated fits and finishes. The category remains strong even as the broader apparel market licks its wounds from a disastrous selling year.

At the PROJECT show in Las Vegas, where U.S. buyers connect with apparel brands, all the focus was on high-end denim, where prices routinely hit $200 or more.

"Walking the show, denim as a category was the busiest category. And True Religion was by far the busiest," said Needham & Co analyst Christine Chen. The company is known for a horseshoe design stitched onto its back pockets.

At rival Citizens of Humanity, orders logged on the first day of the show were double those of a year ago, said Chief Operating Officer Gary Freedman.

The premium denim market held up over the holiday quarter and first part of this year, when other apparel categories saw plummeting sales from the sharp pullback in consumer spending.

That may be because premium jeans can be worn day or night and for special occasions, and cost the same as a dress.

The $1.32 billion market grew 5 percent in the 12 months ended June, according to research firm NPD Group. Sales in the overall apparel industry slid 5 percent in the same timeframe.   Continued...

<p>A pair of women's premium denim jeans, selling for $375.00, is pictured in a retail store in San Francisco, September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>