Apparel price point categories

Have you been confused by terms such as bridge, contemporary or moderate used to describe the different classes of goods in the apparel industry? So is everyone else, definitions are blurring all the time. [This is doomed to be a work in progress, your clarifications and corrections are welcomed.] Usually, the price point category refers to where the product lies in the pricing spectrum ranging from discount to designer. However, some definitions aren’t so neat and tidy. For example, some product classes -like sportswear or sleepwear- can limit your price point category. I don’t think there is such a thing as designer sportswear according to the industry’s definition (gracefully sidestepping consumer marketing efforts) which is limited to dressier items but you can find dresses in every category. To make matters more confusing, it is possible to find sportswear by known designers in their lower tier labels. Even more perplexing, it is possible to find designer or bridge items at discount where it means another thing entirely. Let’s take a stab at this, shall we?

The initial or intended category usually falls along price lines. It is typical that quality levels increase or decrease accordingly. The categories are:

  • Discount
  • Budget or Mass Market
  • Moderate
  • Contemporary
  • Better
  • Bridge
  • Designer
  • Haute Couture

Discount: (also known as Off Price)
There are two kinds of discount goods. The first kind are produced specifically for the discount market, usually low quality throw away type items. Some items produced for discount are known designer names who’ve over licensed their brand. Oleg Cassini is probably the most infamous but there are plenty of brands that produce items that are only intended to be sold at their outlet mall store. Wal-Mart is easily the best known discounter.

The second kind of discount goods are products that have been sold in the off price market because the items didn’t sell at the intended price point category (close outs and discontinued). There’s a broad range of discount stores too. Some sell goods that are disposable (dollar stores) and others sell moderate (TJ Maxx) and others better to bridge or contemporary (Burlington Coat Factory). Discount is difficult to pigeon hole because it is relative. All other price point categories are easier to define by price.

Budget or Mass Market:
Intended for broad consumption, these are often derivations of popular styles and staples. Some are notorious (Forever 21). Sears sells budget priced products and probably Penney’s too.

This can be difficult to define; a lot of labels straddle this category. These include brands like Levis and Zara. Dillards is considered to be a moderate department store although their men’s wear can hit contemporary and better price points. The bulk of sportswear falls into this category if not lower.

FYI: this is the cut off point for children’s apparel although most lines are moderate or lower. This is usually the lowest price point category for what consumers consider a “designer” line such as Jones New York and Liz Claiborne. Again, it’s hard to pigeon hole a “designer” name brand because they have a stable of similarly named labels designed to hit varying price points.

Although similar or higher than Better in pricing, Contemporary implies the latest in new styling being avante garde and trendy. Targeted for younger fashion-forward consumers, sizing is typically limited to juniors and misses. Examples of contemporary lines are Bisou Bisou and Betsey Johnson. A lot of DEs are actually in this category although some entertain the notion they’re bridge or designer*. In my opinion, this is the cut off for sportswear*.

Bridge is the gap between contemporary and designer labels, a lot of DEs aspire to hit their stride here so there’s lots of competition. Better known bridge labels are Lauren by Ralph Lauren and DKNY by Donna Karan.

This is the second most abused category by consumers and those aspiring to enter the market. The easiest way to define this category is to say it includes the RTW lines of haute couture designers such as Chanel and Issey Miyake but it also includes US based designers like Calvin Klein.

This category is most abused by enthusiasts, consumers and DEs alike (Juicy Couture anyone?). It’s really simple. If you’re not a syndicate member, you are not a couturier and I don’t care how well you sew. Haute Couture is limited to syndicate members producing made to measure pieces. Besides, if you wanted to make money, haute couture is a money pit. High fashion is a marketing method, the drama that drives sales of their RTW lines and how they pay the bills.

*One designer I know just couldn’t understand the limitation of product class and how it affected her line within price point categories. She produced a sample line of upper end sportswear, really nice stuff but her product limited her to contemporary -at best. After going back and forth with others who were attempting to grind some sense into her, she quipped “I’ve decided I’m a designer line” and then proceeded to adopt all the trappings of designer lines (four color glossy catalog etc). Then she stalled not being able to find a sales rep and we haven’t heard from her since. Pity, she was quite talented.

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