The apparel sector of the U.S. retail industry consists of companies that specialize in the sale of clothing in either brick-and-mortar retail stores, via e-commerce, or by direct response. Most of the largest apparel companies in the U.S. are not privately owned. Each fashion retailer that is publicly traded has its own unique stock exchange symbol, which allows investors and others to easily track the value of shares and other information.
Consumer Spending on Apparel
The U.S. spends more on apparel than most other countries, yet the industry is still affected by the economy. Consumer spending in the apparel sector of the retail industry began declining in the third quarter of 2008, coinciding with the economic downturn that year. While apparel spending showed some signs of recovery in 2010, the 2009 same-store sales figures revealed that consumers had traded down in price points, a trend that is generally anticipated whenever unemployment is high and discretionary spending is low.
Apparel sales reversed and climbed in small increments in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases consumer spending reports, reported an 11.3 percent increase in sales in this sector from 2013 to 2014, and an additional 3.4 percent increase through 2015. Although these figures include other expenditures, there's still a clear upward trend.
According to industry tracker the NPD group, changing consumer needs and an evolving retail marketplace were the drivers behind the U.S. apparel industry's upward trend through 2016 with women's, men's, and children's apparel sales increasing by 3 percent, reaching $218.7 billion.
While trends were good, over the last few years, a handful of previously successful fashion retail businesses closed or filed for bankruptcy including Forever 21, The Limited, Barneys New York, Nine West, and Payless. Nevertheless, spending on clothes is somewhat steady, and in September 2019, when retail sales overall in the U.S. fell for the first time in seven months, sales at clothing stores rose, according to a report from the Department of Commerce.
Publicly Traded Companies
Companies that are publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange issue securities, or shares, to investors in an initial public offering or IPO. These companies must answer and report to their shareholders. Reporting requirements are set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which mandates transparency in business practices and financials. Annual 10-K reports and financial statements from these companies are available to the public. Based on the unpredictable up and down swings that the apparel sector is subject to, it's important to keep a watchful eye on any company you invest in.
How to Find and Track a Particular Company
This list of publicly-traded apparel companies in the U.S. retail industry includes their stock symbols for easy research. It's arranged alphabetically for easy reference. It is not all-inclusive and is subject to change, although not without a bit of press attention and fanfare. These companies can elect to go private again by effectively buying back all stock but in most cases that would be a mammoth undertaking and would not go unnoticed.
Some companies below have filed for bankruptcy since the creation of this list. Note that filing for bankruptcy doesn't mean the stores are closed or the company is out of business. Further, companies can recover, so check current stock quotes for latest values.
- Abercrombie & Fitch Co. [ANF]
- Aeropostale, Inc. [ARO] - Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2016, exiting in September 2016. It's now owned in part by Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties.
- American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. [AEO]
- Ann Taylor Stores Corporation [ANN]
- Bakers Footwear Group, Inc. [BKRS]
- Benetton Group S.p.A. [BNGPY.PK]
- Blue Holdings, Inc. [BLHI.PK]
- The Buckle, Inc. [BKE]
- Cache, Inc. [CACH] - Filed for bankrupcy in February 2015 and closed all stores.
- Casual Male Retail Group, Inc. [CMRG]
- The Cato Corporation [CTR]
- The Children's Place Retail Stores, Inc. [PLCE]
- Charlotte Russe Holding, Inc. [CHIC] - Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2019
- Charming Shoppes, Inc. [CHRS]
- Chico's FAS, Inc. [CHS]
- Christopher & Banks Corporation [CBK]
- Citi Trends, Inc. [CTRN]
- Collective Brands, Inc. [PSS]
- Destination Maternity Corporation [DEST]
- Dickson Concepts (International) Limited [DCOHF.PK]
- The Dress Barn, Inc. [DBRN]
- DSW Inc. [DSW]
- The Finish Line, Inc. [FINL]
- Foot Locker, Inc. [FL]
- The Gap Inc. [GPS]
- Genesco Inc. [GCO]
- Guess?, Inc. [GES]
- The Gymboree Corporation [GYMB]
- Hot Topic, Inc. [HOTT]
- J. Crew Group, Inc. [JCG]
- Jones Apparel Group, Inc. [JNY]
- Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc. [JOSB]
- Limited Brands, Inc. [LTD] - Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2017
- The Men's Wearhouse, Inc. [MW]
- New York & Company, Inc. [NWY]
- Nordstrom, Inc. [JWN]
- Pacific Sunwear of California, Inc. [PSUN]
- Ports Design Limited [PDESF.PK]
- Retail Ventures, Inc. [RVI]
- Ross Stores, Inc. [ROST]
- S&K Famous Brands, Inc. [SKFBQ.PK]
- Shoe Carnival, Inc. [SCVL]
- Stage Stores, Inc. [SSI]
- Stein Mart, Inc. [SMRT]
- Syms Corp [SYMS]
- Tween Brands, Inc. [TWB]
- Urban Outfitters, Inc. [URBN]
- The Walking Company Holdings, Inc. [WALK.PK]
- The Wet Seal, Inc. [WTSLA] - Filed for bankruptcy in Feb 2017
- Zumiez Inc. [ZUMZ]