COVID-19 pandemic: Apparel sales are surging post-lockdown

It's becoming quite clear that U.S. consumers want a new outfit — or five — for their first dinner at a restaurant or trip to another state in more than a year now that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

That's either (A) because they want to look cool in something other than Lululemon jogger pants and a loose-fitting top that has been the wardrobe staple; or (B) they no longer fit in their pre-pandemic clothes a year into eating a ton of packaged food. Or, it could be a combination of both.

Whatever the case, retailers that sell apparel are showcasing some very sizable gains in sales as sector earnings have kicked into overdrive this week. Executives at these companies credit pent-up consumer demand and the benefit of government stimulus checks that hit bank accounts in March.

"We see a consumer with increasing confidence," Target CFO Michael Fiddelke said on Yahoo Finance Live. "It's great to see the consumer finding some spring in their step and coming back to Target stores to turn to categories like apparel that have come on for us this year. We feel really good about the strength we are seeing in the consumer and how they are shopping our entire assortment."

Apparel sales have come on quick since the winter month as confidence in the vaccine rollout has increased. Sales at clothing and accessories stores rose 16.4% in April from February, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Sales at department stores have risen 10% over that same stretch.

Here are several retailers that just reported big sales gains for apparel in the first quarter.


Target's (TGT) expanded assortment of Levi's jeans and vibrant colored spring/summer apparel lured in more confident shoppers in the first quarter.

The retailer said Wednesday that apparel comparable sales surged in excess of 60% in the quarter.

Said Fiddelke, "We see increasing consumer confidence and that's a good thing for the economy and certainly a good thing for Target's business.

TJX Companies

Despite being flush with stimulus checks, consumers still appear to want a good deal on clothing, judging by the first quarter earnings out of TJX Companies (TJX), owner of TJ Maxx and Marshall's, on Wednesday.

Same-store sales at TJ Maxx and Marshall's — a division the company calls Marmaxx for reporting purposes — rose 12% in the quarter.

The strength has continued into the second quarter.

"Clearly, our treasure-hunt shopping experience, eclectic mix of merchandise, and great brands and values continue to resonate with shoppers across our geographies. As we start the second quarter, overall open-only comp store sales trends remain similar to the first quarter," TJX Companies CEO Ernie Herrman said.


Even struggling Macy's (M) is getting in on the apparel spending boom.

Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on Tuesday the company saw an eight percentage point improvement from the fourth quarter of 2020 in apparel sales. Moreover, the company noted sequential improvement in apparel sales throughout the first quarter. Consumers are heading back to Macy's for dresses, watches and tailored clothing, executives explains.

"The consumer is healthy with lower debt and strong household savings. After a year of reduced activity, consumers are ready to get out, reconnect with family and friends and celebrate life. Our customers are ready to spend and demand is rising in categories we are positioned to win in," Gennette said.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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