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Sales of separates on the up as women dress down

Dresses are in decline after years of dominating womenswear sales, figures from Kantar Worldpanel suggest.

Spend on general daywear dresses for the 24 weeks to March 18 has fallen more than 10% compared with last year, while party dresses dropped 1.9%. Work dresses were the only bright spot in the category, rising 5.9% on last year.

All age groups were in decline, with under-25s showing the steepest drops of 12% in volume terms and 11% in value.

Glen Tooke, analyst at research firm Kantar Worldpanel, told Drapers this trend was unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

It has coincided with a rise in spend on jeans and formal skirts, suggesting separates are growing in appeal.

Tooke said this was partly being driven by thrifty shopping habits as well as trends for items such as coloured jeans.

“We’re seeing the whole mix-and match trend come through in these figures,” said Tooke. “If you’re buying a party dress there are few occasions you can wear it and it just ends up sitting in your wardrobe for most of the year, but jeans or a skirt can more easily be turned from something formal during the day into something to go out in.”

He added: “Something drastic would have to happen [to dresses] to cause them to go into growth. I’d be very surprised if we saw the market return to the levels of 2010/11 next year. We may see it recover somewhat, but it won’t be the shining star it’s been in the past.”

The size of the market – £1.02bn, more than double the combined value of jeans and formal skirts – means retailers should not ditch the category altogether, but Tooke urged them to think carefully about the type of dress they stock.

“People need to justify the purchase, so [retailers] need to be cleverer about what they buy,” he said.

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