Urban Outfitted

How much do African Americans gear up?

Apparel is the sixth largest retail category, according to a recent report from the National Retail Federation/Forrester Research. It’s also one that African Americans spent 7.3% of their after-tax income on, to the tune of $20.5 billion, in 1998.

The NPD Group Inc., a market research company in Port Washington, New York, breaks 1999 U.S. apparel sales into three main distribution channels: brick-and-mortar stores (88.6%); catalogs (9.4%); and online/Internet (0.6%). (“Not reported” accounts for the remaining 1.4%.)

While the online sales component may seem minuscule, it actually accounted for a whopping $1.1 billion in 1999, roughly twice the amount spent in 1998 (and is estimated to top $13 billion by 2003). However, of the 4.9 million African Americans who use the Internet, those making online purchases lagged behind the rest of the wired population when it came to purchases in the clothing (and travel) sectors.

“While we found that online African Americans are more likely to state they intend to begin making online purchases than the total online adult population, the same group also expresses a higher degree of concern regarding security and privacy than the total online population,” says Idil Cakim, an analyst for Cyber Dialogue, an online market research company.

One other trend to watch: the emergence of discount stores. With a 7% revenue gain in 1999, they captured a 20% market share and were the fastest-growing retail channel.

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