There have been budding signs of improvement in the apparel category, including a 3.1 percent year-over-year increase at clothing and accessories stores in March, according to the Commerce Department. However, on an adjusted basis, sales at these stores ticked lower in March as compared to February. During the first three months of the year, sales at these stores have increased 2.7 percent, falling short of retail's overall 3.4 percent gain.
Still, analysts have expressed some optimism on the category, citing pent-up demand and budding trends as potential levers to get consumers spending this spring. One such trend is the bralette, a feminine, unstructured take on the traditional bra. Not only is the item drumming up interest among young shoppers, but because it is worn as one part of a layered look, it's encouraging multiple purchases.
Potential good news for apparel retailers, however, does not bode well for other categories. According to Credit Suisse's study, 24 percent of shoppers plan to spend less on watches this year, and 21 percent plan to allocate less of their budget toward handbags and jewelry.