What You Should Know About The Boomers In The Candada Apparel Market

A common complaint of baby boomer women, especially working women, in Canada is that apparel designs and sizes are aimed too often at younger women and are too small and too trendy for their needs. However, this segment of the market offers great opportunities for women who not only demand more variety, but also have the income and desire to spend. An increasing amount of retailers in Canada are beginning to cater to older women’s fashion demands for the “real” woman, and U.S. clothing suppliers and direct marketers of apparel should find plenty of opportunities in this market.

Why Baby Boomers Are Important to the Canadian Women’s Apparel Market

The baby boomer generation in Canada consists of almost 10 million people, comprising 28 percent of Canada’s population, who were born between 1946 and 1966 (aged 39-59 in 2005). Altogether, they are Canada’s largest and most affluent consumer group. Baby boomers appreciate high quality and are therefore more likely to pay higher prices. Like in the United States, women in this age group are generally in the work force, and they have reached their peak earning years, which has caused an explosion in the sale of luxury goods. They have more disposable income to spend on clothing than even the most fashion-conscious teenager.

According to Trendex market statistics, in 2004, the apparel market in Canada represented 3.4 percent of the Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), up from 1.9 percent in 2003. Two-thirds of this growth was in women’s apparel. Significantly, women aged 35 to 54 spent 48 percent of the approximately CDN $10.5 billion (US $9 billion) in sales of women’s apparel for the year ending in May 2005. Women over 35 have the potential to be a significant boost to the apparel industry, and this is illustrated in the jeans market; half of the CDN $600 million (US $515 million) sold in the women’s jeans market are disproportionately sold to 35 to 54 year olds.

Certain clothes retailers in Canada such as Jacobs, Reitman’s and Liz Claiborne have begun to open up alternative stores to serve primarily the over-35 crowd. Clothing lines in these stores are more trendy, European-inspired, and luxurious, at higher price levels. However, overall women baby boomers remain a vastly under-served market. Canadian women in this age group generally are heavier than their junior counterparts. However, they frequently complain that it is hard to find apparel that is flattering to their bodies. The “looks” that they desire are either unavailable in their sizes or not offered by clothing retailers. Apparel companies should take a closer look at their fashion demands.

Implications for U.S. Companies

The similarity of the U.S. and Canadian fashion markets are in indicator of the high receptivity of the Canadian market to imports from the United States, Canada’s secondlargest supplier after China – Canada already imports over CDN $500 million (US $429 million) of clothing from the United States annually. U.S.-made clothing also enters Canada duty-free under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). U.S. fashion suppliers that have product lines aimed at women aged 39-59 should become familiar with the Canadian women’s apparel retailers, including specialty stores, that cater to the baby-boomer generation. In addition, U.S. direct marketing retailers of women’s fashions should also explore expansion of their sales in Canada to this market. In particular, there are a number of programs to streamline the import process into Canada to make consumer purchases as streamlined as possible.