Macy’s, Nordstrom and Caleres Benefit from a Shift to Occasion-Based Footwear and Apparel

The last week in retail earnings exhibited a shift away from the comfort and athletic trends that defined the pandemic.

Executives from Macy’s, Nordstrom and Caleres observed a shift in Q1 to dressy and casual footwear and apparel, as more people engaged in social events and in-person work.

These trends were prominent in Q1 at Macy’s, which owns Bloomingdale’s. In a call with investors, CEO and chairman Jeff Gennette said sales at Macy’s were “affected by an accelerated category shift, away from the popular pandemic categories, such as casual and activewear as well as soft home, and into more occasion-based apparel, like dresses, women’s shoes, men’s clothing and furnishings.”

Gennette added that this trend shift occurred faster than expected and also bolstered in-store foot traffic, with more people willing to come buy occasion items in person. In Q1, sales at Bloomingdale’s on an owned-plus-licensed basis were up 26.9%, driven by sales of dresses, men’s tailored, men’s and women’s contemporary apparel and luggage.

“The shopper made a meaningful shift to post-pandemic categories, such as dresses, men’s suits, shoes, fragrances, beauty, and luggage, while pandemic categories slowed (casual, active wear, home, and soft textiles),” wrote Cowen Equity Research analysts in a note about Macy’s.

At Nordstrom, another department store retailer, executives also cited a return to occasion-based dressing. In Q1, core categories including men’s and women’s apparel, shoes and designer had the strongest growth against 2021 as customers refreshed their wardrobes for occasions such as social events, travel and return to office, according to CEO Erik Nordstrom.

Strength in men’s and women’s apparel was driven especially by suiting and dresses.

Nordstrom president Pete Nordstrom mentioned that he was “excited to see customers shopping for events and updating their closets this quarter,” and added that men’s apparel was Nordstrom’s strongest category this quarter.

“While we always strive for balance across all relevant categories, it is true that event and occasion-based categories are important to our customers and represent a significant portion of our business,” Pete added.

Footwear-focused companies have also observed this shift. Genesco, with owns Journeys, Johnston & Murphy and Schuh, highlighted an overarching shift from athletic to casual styles, which has been a theme across Genesco’s geographies and brands.

Caleres, which owns Famous Footwear, said its 46% year-over-year sales improvement in its brand portfolio was a result of strong consumer demand, “particularly for dress occasion and wear-to-work products,” said CEO Diane Sullivan.

The company said it strategically secured airfreight to make sure its highly in-demand occasion-based styles — including wedding shoes and party styles — were in stock.

“The Famous consumer is out and about and has a growing interest to add a broader assortment of seasonal- and occasional-based products to satisfy all of their social needs,” said Sullivan. “This provides a compelling opportunity for us to leverage our fashion-focused brands in our portfolio to drive highly profitable incremental sales.”

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