Gender bender: mixed-apparel buyers show slip

With 14.5 million 12-month buyers available for rental or exchange during the first quarter of 2006, mixed-gender apparel catalogs — those selling clothes for both men and women — account for about 26% of all consumer apparel catalog buyers on the market, according to New York-based media brokerage services firm ParadyszMatera. While the segment is about 10 times the size of the men’s apparel catalog buyers segment, it’s only half as big as the women’s apparel set.

The number of active mixed-gender catalog buyers on the market is down nearly 5% from the first quarter of 2005, when 15.2 million names were available. According to ParadyszMatera, this is due to year-over-year declines at four of the five largest players in this niche: L.L. Bean, for instance, is down about 5%, or 210,000 names; Lands’ End, 2%, or 44,000 names; Eddie Bauer, more than 16%, or 273,000 names; and Blair, 11%, or 76,000 names. The only one of the top five files to have grown during the past 12 months was J. Crew, which increased its number of 12-month buyers more than 11%, gaining 126,000 names. Other catalogs showing appreciable year-over-year growth were Pendleton, whose house file rose nearly 50%, to 84,000 12-month buyers, and Norm Thompson’s Sahalie catalog (formerly Early Winters), which grew its active file more than 8%, to 260,000 names.

During the first quarter of the year 26% of the mixed-gender apparel catalogs received by ParadyszMatera offered some sort of promotion, downed slightly from 31% for all of 2005. Books from Bean, Bauer, Crew, and Blair, along with Boden, were among the 17% that offered free shipping during the quarter. Books from Crew, Blair, and Boden, along with Sahalie, J. Peterman, and Woolrich, were among the 10% offering a discount as an incentive.

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