Athleisure and Millennial Markets Still Strong

Niche products sold to Millennials driving strong activewear sales

Millennials and athleisure are two of the brightest spots in the U.S. apparel industry, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company—though momentum slowed in 2017.

Millennials had the highest apparel growth rate of all generations at 4 percent—although that was a slower growth rate than in previous years. Still, Millennials and Gen Xers were the only generations with increases in apparel dollar sales in 2017—good news for dance stores whose customers (dancers and dance moms) fit into this demographic.

The athleisure movement and influence on fashion continues to be a primary driver of growth opportunity for apparel, according to NPD. The activewear category continued to grow in 2017, although not making as steep a rise as in past years. Women’s activewear “supplied much of the energy behind this growth,” with $21.9 billion in sales—a 4 percent increase over 2016. “Categories like active apparel bottoms, undershirts and swimwear—which indicate the consumer’s concentration on comfort, the staples and niche products [think dance, too]—are the few sources of consistent, long-term growth in today’s apparel market,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor for retail at NPD Group.

NPD also reports that brick-and-mortar still represents more than three-quarters of annual apparel industry dollars, although e-commerce remains a driving force. That doesn’t mean there’s any room for complacency. As Cohen says, “Retail is changing, the consumer is changing and every industry must understand where spending habits have moved, and adapt to the shifting market dynamics that are impacting their business.”

 

Who, Us, Worried?

Small businesses may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks than they think.

Only 18 percent of small-business owners think they’re at risk for a cyberattack. This was the finding of a recent Insureon survey of 2,500 business owners who are members of Manta, an online directory that helps small businesses get found. Yet cyberattacks against small businesses are more common (and costly) than small businesses think, Insureon warns. “Of the more than 34,000 cybersecurity incidents that happen daily in the United States, 62 percent occur at small and midsize businesses,” it points out.

Protecting customers’ data is a priority for retailers, and the National Retail Federation has long been advocating for national data breach notification that protects consumers in all industries. For your business, if it’s more a question of when, rather than if, a data breach will occur, what can your store be doing to protect itself and its customers—and avoid expensive recovery costs? Here are some suggestions from Insureon.

Always install all software updates. Hackers often exploit vulnerabilities in older versions of software, and updates protect against the latest viruses and malware.

Protect customer data on your point-of-sale system. Consider using end-to-end encryption software, which immediately encrypts credit card information as it’s received, and then again as it’s being sent to the software’s server. This means even if a hacker manages to install malware on your POS system, your data is still protected.

Use two-factor authentication as an extra layer of protection. It could be something like answering a security question only the user can answer or having a one-time code texted to the user’s phone. Even if someone manages to steal or guess a password, they still shouldn’t be able to gain access to your data.

Limit access to your systems. Anyone who can log in as an admin to your POS or website basically has the keys to your company and sensitive customer data. Protect your store (and your customers) by creating usernames and passwords that are tough to guess, and change them frequently. Also, if you need to share login credentials with an employee or your website administrator, do so in person or by phone.

Create IT guidelines for your employees to follow—for instance, employees must use passwords that are at least 10 characters in length, use upper- and lowercase letters and require special characters. Change passwords anytime an employee leaves the company.

Teach employees how to spot malware and phishers. All it took was one phishing e-mail sent to an unsuspecting Yahoo employee to result in the exposure of half a billion Yahoo accounts, Insureon points out. While the stakes aren’t as high for small-business owners, educate employees so they know not to open e-mail attachments from someone they don’t know and to hover over URLs before clicking to make sure they are going to a legitimate website.

Think about paying an IT expert to periodically check that your business is following best cybersecurity practices.

Consider cyber insurance. In February, Apple and Cisco announced a deal with insurer Allianz that will mean businesses using their tech devices will get better terms on cyber insurance coverage, including lower (or even no) deductibles.

 

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