2023 Apparel Category Winners (and Losers)

To the surprise of many, the post-pandemic sales momentum we saw in 2022 continued into this year, bringing higher sales gains than we typically see in the normal retail cycle.

It’s as though consumers just can’t stop spending, but you’ll hear no complaints from us. So, which categories were the real winners this year? Let’s break it down with Blacks’ exclusive client trends.

2023 Winners – Menswear

First, let’s talk about menswear since men’s outpaced women’s for the last 24 months, turning the idea that women tend to shop more frequently on its head. 

More dressy categories, such as Sport Coats, Suits, and Tuxedos brought in the most business. This was surprising since men tend to build a formal wardrobe of set pieces and not replace them for a few years. However, today’s man is looking to extend style options, adding new pieces with interest.

In fact, Clothing categories as a whole (which are made up of suits, sport coats, dress pants, dress shirts, furnishings, etc.) have been up 7% year-to-date (YTD) and 6% over the 90 days ending Oct. 31st.

Sport Coats

There’s no doubt that the real menswear hero this year was the Sport Coat. This category grew 9% year-to-date and 7% over the last 90 days. (Interestingly, the soft jackets that were all the rage a few seasons ago, and are usually lumped in with Sport Coat planning, have seen a real drop-off.)


Tuxedos were another surprise winner this year, although they represent less volume than Sport Coats. Tuxes were up 15% YTD and 37% in October alone! It’s hard to believe that there are that many postponed pandemic weddings, but formal events must be driving sales.


Meanwhile, tuxedos’ slightly less formal cousin, the Suit, has been chugging along at steady growth of about 3% YTD.


Another recent winner has been Outerwear, up 4% YTD, with much of the business coming early in the season.

2023 Winners – Women’s 

Women’s wear has been a somewhat different story, although a parallel with menswear is that more expensive pieces are selling better.

Special Order

In fact, women’s Special Order has been up 9% YTD and 16% in the last 90 days.


On the flip side, casual dressing in Activewear continues to be a trend. Women’s Activewear has been up 8% year-to-date and 25% over the last 90 days.

2023 Losers

Although we are seeing a lot of growth this year, there are some categories that are still struggling to make a comeback, such as women’s dresses.


After seeing substantial growth in the first half of 2022, Dresses are down 15% year-to-date, and 23% over the last 90 days, which is surprising since the period covers the latter half of the summer dress season.

Women’s Knitwear

For some reason women’s knitwear hasn’t been doing well this year, either. In fact, where we normally see three tops sold for every bottom, the cycle has changed to about two tops per bottom, and it looks like women are leaving knit tops behind.

2024 Predictions

With all the momentum we have been seeing recently, it’s hard to imagine menswear dropping off dramatically. We predict it will continue to outpace women’s next year, but at a smaller growth rate.

Men’s Clothing

Since Sport Coats have been flying off the shelves, we believe that Suits will start to make a comeback next year, selling at a slightly higher rate than 2023.

We also believe that women’s Dresses will make a comeback in late spring, as forecasters are predicting a longer winter. 

Keep in mind, however, that next year is an election year and sales tend to dip when there is uncertainty. Keep your head down and focus on what’s happening in your business, rather than watching the news. It could be a bit of a wild ride, but we are always here to help.