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Dressing for the Occasion

Dressing for the Occasion
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It's that time of year when social calendars start to fill up; from destination weddings to milestone birthday celebrations, many people will have to find something to wear for a special occasion.  To this point, data collected by Bankrate noted that "27 percent of U.S. adults plan to attend, or have already attended, at least one wedding in 2023 — including 38 percent of millennials and 37 percent of Gen Zers...and wedding guests plan to spend (an average of) $274 on attire and grooming."

This week we're talking all about what's going on in occasionwear.  What's in demand, what are pricing trends and more.  This is a preview of our upcoming Occasionwear Report dropping shortly.  

Read on for your exclusive insights.

The Nature of Demand

With dress codes from pre-pandemic days being in a state of flux now, the opportunity occasion attire presents remains a fashion industry bright spot.  In fact, when McKinsey interviewed fashion executives for its State of Fashion 2023 Report, 39% of them expected formal attire to be one of the top three growth categories in 2023.

Indeed, our search data shows the growth trends of specific types of occasionwear dresses, and more broadly, indicates the extent to which specific events drive consumer interest and purchase behavior.

Searches for "summer wedding guest dress" are up 26% YOY.  But it's not just limited to wedding occasions; searches for "birthday dress" are up 40% and even "gala dress" has seen 33% more searches YOY.  

The fact that this is how customers are shopping represents a huge opportunity for retail brands and stores to optimize not only their on-site navigation and product edits to align to these needs, but also to fine tune their SEO and SEM strategies to drive shoppers looking for occasionwear to their desired destination.

Inflation hasn't gone away, even though it seems to be softening a bit.  Our analysis shows how this is playing out in the formal dress category over the recent months.

Specifically, we see a 25% increase in average prices compared with April 2022, with prices reaching more than $660 in April 2023.  To the topic of slowing inflation, this year so far we've seen prices climb 5%.  If that pace continues it will mean less inflation in 2023, but questions remain about consumers' appetite for these higher prices.

To soften the blow of higher prices, we are seeing one notable metric increasing.  In April 2022, 26% of formal dresses were on sale, but we've seen this climb to 35% in April 2023.  Retailers are using discounts as the gentle nudge to get consumers to spend, as overall consumer confidence weakens.

What's Selling Now

Despite growing economic concerns, it seems that fashion executives' optimism for the opportunities within the formalwear category was correct.

We've seen a marked increase both YOY and during 2023 of sold out rates for formal dresses.  YOY, we saw sold out rates go from 8% to 17%, in addition to a six point increase during 2023 so far. Even when looking at only non-discounted formal dresses, we see a similar trend, where YOY sold out rates went from 2% to 11%.  Positively, this data seems to indicate that shoppers are still willing to spend for these formal occasions.

As far as which design details are converting shoppers, in April 2023 we saw a 15% sold out rate for dresses with sequins, a 16% sold out rate for both mini and maxi styles, and a 14% sold out rate for satin formal dresses.

Hope you've enjoyed this preview of our occasionwear report.  Stay tuned for the release of the full report in a few days!

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