Denim demand varies among retailers

Jan. 22—High prices coupled with a desire for more comfortable clothes may lead to a bit of a downturn for denim.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a New York-based retail and consumer goods consulting firm, said while denim is the number one category in apparel, sales of new jeans could dip this year as consumers look for better values.

"Two years ago, the price of cotton reached a historic high," Flickinger said. "Since that peak, the price of cotton has been cut in half, but the price of denim clothes has not recorrected down to reflect the lower commodity and manufacturing prices."

He added about 19% of children between the ages of 2 and 19, two-thirds of adult women and about 73% of adult men are either overweight or obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"They need bigger clothes, they want more comfortable clothes, and they want to save money," Flickinger said. "The prices are too high and new denim is not as comfortable as pre-owned denim."

Flickinger added there is also typically insufficient inventory of larger sizes in many of the chain stores.

Abigail Gervasi, manager of The Avenue Consignment Shoppe in Glenburn Twp., sees customers from pre-teens to women in their 90s shifting away from denim.

"We've definitely seen a decline in demand for denim whether it's on top or bottom since the start of COVID," she said. "Everyone started wearing leggings and now everyone is wearing baggy slacks or cotton."

Gervasi and owner Shirley Pisanchyn remember more demand for jeans when the shop first opened in 2009.

"We would sell a lot of denim jackets, denim jeans, and denim tops and now it's not going to sell," Gervasi said. "I don't even think we have any outfits out right now with denim."

While the store is currently selling a lot of loose-fitting slacks and trousers, Gervasi believes jeans will have a resurgence.

"I think they'll come back — people have been wearing them since the 1800s," she said.

A couple miles up the road, Andrea Demuth, owner of Classique Clothes in Clarks Summit, said demand for denim has remained strong at her shop and embroidery designs have been popular.

"The jeans I have are cut for adult women distinctly, not teenagers," she said.

She added there has been a shift toward more soft, comfortable jeans.

"Gone are the days of the stiff jean material," Demuth said.

Ashley Ropraz, store manager of Plato's Closet in Dickson City, noted denim is also selling well at the thrift and consignment store.

"We're getting a ton of it in, and people are still buying it," she said. "We're restocking our denim every day. It's still one of our top sellers."

Tara Atkins, owner of Golden Coast in Clarks Summit, a women's boutique, noticed customers are open to spending more for the perfect fit.

"Women want denim to fit them like it should fit their body," she said. "Not the good old button-fly Levi jeans you throw on where there are gaps all over. They're willing to pay for it — most of our denim is $128 and up —because they know they'll get a lot of wear out of it."

Elaine Kennedy, store manager of Shooze, a contemporary boutique in Kingston, said the shop recently started sourcing more dressy clothes again to meet demand but she believes denim will continue to thrive.

"Denim always sells well in our stores," she said. "Fashion trends change so people like to update it, but so many people have become accepting of denim. Women buy the different styles — they want light jeans in the summer and dark jeans in the winter."

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