Prom Spending on the Rise

The prom category is dancing upward.

With a wider selection of styles and an uptick in spending for the dress category, footwear players are reporting growth.

“It’s a growing piece of our business. We really started paying attention to the vendors who have started to increase business for the category,” said Richard Zech, director of fashion footwear and private labels for Zappos.com. “We brought more inventory in compared with last year.”

According to The NPD Group Inc., dress category sales among 13-year-old to 18-year-old females rose 6 percent for the 12-month period ended February 2013.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD, said moms and daughters are ready to spend again. “The dress business dropped off as consumers reprioritized their [needs],” he said. “Now there is a little surge post-recession as parents and kids want to go shop and make this fun again.”

At Ninashoes.com, the company is highlighting prom merchandise on its homepage. Consumers are encouraged to show their prom look on social media outlets, by using the hashtag #Ninaprom2013, and last month the company hosted a Facebook contest with free giveaways.

“Four-inch heels are doing well on the site and we attribute that to prom sales,” said Dina Sweeney, SVP of e-commerce for Nina. “Teen girls are savvy and appreciate the top fashion looks.”

At online retailer Myshoes.com, which sells brands such as Nina and Jessica Simpson for prom, the site has experienced an uptick in the category because of consumers’ obsession with technology.

“We do expect to see a huge increase in growth for prom because we know the demographic we cater to is so tech-savvy and more familiar with online shopping,” said Ashley DeCaro, who founded the site in the first quarter of 2010.

Juniors’ label Jellypop created a prom section on its website and is collaborating with blogger and YouTube personality Chriselle Lim to showcase some of the best dance floor looks for teen girls.

“We’ve always had really good success with just a handful of small items for social occasion and prom,” said the brand’s president, Pat McLaughlin.

Jellypop also is focusing more on lower heels so its consumers have plenty of options.

“It’s very important to have a strong selection for our juniors’ brand because of all the dances. It is really important that she is comfortable,” said creative director Jennet Chow. “We don’t want the height to be too high, so the mother can buy for the daughter too.”

At Zappos.com, some of the standout brands for the category include Steve Madden, Chinese Laundry, Sam Edelman and newcomer David Tutera. “Special-occasion is up about 25 percent on the footwear side,” said Zech. “Early indications are that sales will be outstanding.”

And at Macy’s, the category is also growing. This year, the retailer will showcase spring and prom styles in 188 doors. Expectations for the category are high, according to a Macy’s spokesperson.