Weary of old wardrobes, women buying clothes again

Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:42pm EST
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By Alexandria Sage - Analysis

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Shop 'till you drop it's not, but U.S. women are finally starting to buy clothes again.

Even before the U.S. economy headed south over a year ago, many U.S. women eschewed clothing purchases for themselves, given tight budgets, a clampdown on credit limits and merchandise that offered little dazzle.

That trend grew stronger as recession took hold and unemployment began to rise. But slightly better consumer confidence, good bargains and improved fall fashions have more women looking through their closets and realizing it's time to replenish.

"After two years, she's saying, 'Finally, I need a few things for myself!'" said Lisa Walters, a principal with research and consulting firm Retail Eye Partners.

Retailers from Nordstrom Inc to J.C. Penney Co Inc and Chico's FAS Inc have noted stronger apparel purchases by women in recent weeks.

It's a welcome, albeit modest, step in advance of the holidays after a disastrous year in which most U.S. women curtailed shopping on clothing for themselves. Those with children often put shopping for the family first, and their own wardrobes second.

Cooler weather and trend-right apparel items are helping. Boots, leggings, skinny jeans and a return to cozy plaids and tunics have fueled the need for wardrobe updates.

"She's back in the mall but not buying probably as much," said Walters. "We have seen a resurgence in shopping over the past two months. Back-to-school got moms back in the mall, and through September and October women came back to the mall for fall (wardrobe) updates."   Continued...