Recession Proof Denim


While the retail industry is being hit hard by the recession, there seems to be one area that is almost recession proof, denim. Consumers have cut spending on clothes but denim retailers are building new stores. As one market study revealed, “Sales of premium brand jeans grew by 17% during 2008 and eked out a 2.3% increase in the most recent three-month period that ended in February, making premium denim one of a few “pockets of growth in an otherwise fizzling fashion market,” NPD Group said.

“That is the time period that was the most challenging in terms of consumer spending, so any growth during that time is significant,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD Group’s chief industry analyst. “With the newfound focus on fit by some of the commodity brands coupled with women’s never-ending quest for the perfect pair of jeans, the passion for denim is alive and well.”

Perhaps part of the draw is that denim is seen as part of the American Spirit. “In the U.S., people care that their jeans are manufactured here,” said Eric Beder, an analyst for Brean Murray, Carret & Co. “To consumers outside the U.S., it’s crucial. Jeans are considered an American tradition. To be considered a real premium brand, you need to have the ‘made in the USA’ label on it.”

As Adriano Goldschmied, the Italian designer of European jeans brands Diesel, Replay, Goldie and Rivet, agrees. In 2007, Goldschmied’s luxury denim label GoldSign merged with Paris-born Jerome Dahan’s Citizens of Humanity, based in Huntington Park. “Nothing more than jeans represent the spirit of America,” Goldschmied said. “It’s about going to the mall, driving, having fun at the beach. Jeans still represent the life.”

There has also been an increase in the opening of stores, as opposed to selling through department stores. Brands like Joe’s Jeans and True Religion are attempting to reach customers through websites and stores. True Religion’s direct direct sales increased 96% to $23.1 million. The company had 49 of its own stores by the end of the first quarter, up from 18 stores in March 2008.

But it ultimately, it comes down to fit and quality and viewing denim as an investment. As Joelle Forte Casady explains, “I wear jeans five out of the seven days of the week. If I’m spending $150 to $250 a pair, I feel I’m getting my money out of it if I wear them 10 times, and I wear them a lot more than that,” Casady said. “That’s instead of some sexy heel shoes I might wear six times a year. When you think it looks nice and feels right on you,” she said, “then it is worth every penny.”

Read the rest of the article at The LA