Important changes in lifestyle, fashion and technology have led to a crossover of daywear and nightwear. This has resulted in increased sales for retailers, industry experts tell Sarah Blackman
The nightwear sector has undergone some exciting changes in recent years. Firstly, with the rise and rise of internet shopping, it has seen substantial growth in online sales, mainly because pyjamas, camisoles and gowns are seen as less fit critical than bras, for instance.
Secondly, while nightwear was once purely a gift-driven business, today it is a self-purchase product category, as it has become an essential part of a consumer’s wardrobe.
Indeed, nightwear has evolved as an extension of outerwear trends, and this can only mean good things for retailers, according Cyberjammies brand director Mark Tweed.
“This perception change has lead to year-round business, with the normal retail peaks seen on special occasions, such as Christmas,” he says.
But what factors have driven this change in consumers’ buying behaviour?
Fashion and technology
Since the turn of the decade, nightwear and loungewear have evolved in terms of styling and shapes. The industry has become more fashion driven, with consumers opting for stronger prints and colours.
“As the fashion trends influence the nightwear and loungewear sector, the style has become more modern than in previous years. Nightwear and loungewear companies have been paying attention to detail when it comes to styling, are and being more creative with their garments,” says Valentini Tsamados, exclusive UK agent for nightwear brand Vamp!
Due to these changes, nightwear no longer has a purely utilitarian use as sleepwear, but is viewed as a multi-functional product type that is worn to be seen outside the bedroom.
In fact, a study by Cotton USA shows that since 2012, there has been a rise in the number of people who do not own any pyjamas, due to the growing popularity of loungewear, which means that “people have a wider choice of comfortable clothes to relax in, beyond traditional pyjamas,” Stephanie Thiers-Ratcliffe, International marketing manager of Cotton USA told the Telegraph last month.
US label Eberjey is one loungewear brand that has seen a dramatic increase in sales over the past few years. “Our customers take just as much pride in what they wear to bed as they do in what they wear every day,” says Lucy Osborne, wholesale director for Philippa Bradley Agencies, which distributes Eberjey here in the UK, along with Princess Tam Tam and Magic BodyFashion.
“Our brands have developed loyal followings so they are expected to produce new prints, new fabrics and new colours season-after-season,” she adds.
Technology upgrades have also helped drive the demand for loungewear by enhancing softness, helping moisture control and using sustainable fabrics, says Tweed.
“Our fashion-forward AW14 collection, with a mixture of 100% cotton, cotton modal and cotton lyocell bases, is without doubt our softest and most comfortable. The variety of ranges available offer the perfect style in the ideal design for every woman,” he adds.
New technologies have also helped British manufacturer Slenderella to source unique and exclusive fabrics made from materials such as bamboo and silk.
“I know the ladies in our design teams work tirelessly developing new fabrics, prints and designs to keep the ranges fresh and innovative,” says Slenderella sales and marketing manager Ashley Spendlove.
“We have also noticed an increased demand for alternative natural fibres such a modal, especially within our export markets,” he adds.
Lifestyle changes and the recession
The recession has been another key driver in changing consumers’ perceptions of nightwear and, in turn, their spending habits. According to experts, the credit crunch saw a brief resurgence in pyjama-buying as people were forced to spend more evenings in at home, economising by lounging around the house in nightclothes.
An increase in the number of people working from home has also lead to a growth in nightwear sales. The Labour Force Survey, published last May, shows that just over 4 million employees in the UK worked at home in 2012, a rise of 470,000 since 2007.
And when it comes to those adults who commute to work, one in ten put on their nightclothes as soon as they get home, the Premier Inn hotel chain found in a recent study on 2,000 Britons.
As a result of these trends, consumers have shown a want to buy quality garments to lounge around in at low prices, according to Vamp! “The recession has had an impact on all aspects of clothing retailing, but the impact on loungewear and nightwear has been even bigger because customers seem to spend less for something that they wear only at home,” says Tsamados.
“At the same time however, they are seeking better quality of fabrics such as cotton, silk and modal because they can feel the difference on their skin.”
Conversely, Michelle Blenkinsopp, creative director of Shell Belle Couture has found that consumers have been willing to spend more on nightwear during the tough times.
“Consumers are being a lot savvier with their purchases, and when a piece is more versatile, they are prepared to pay more. Our best sellers have always been pieces that crossover from loungewear into ready-to-wear,” she explains.
In recent years, a trend among some Britons to wear nightwear during the daytime has prompted supermarkets like Tesco to ban shoppers who attempt to enter their stores wearing pyjamas.
But, perhaps public perceptions will change once they spot fashionable loungewear collections being worn down the supermarket aisle, and even in bars and restaurants.
“Our separates are for luxury lounging and our silk pyjamas and slip dresses are also being worn to soirees and special events, adds Blenkinsopp. “They can be dressed up or dressed down and often worn separately. The top fashion publications fully support these trends, with their lifestyle imagery and styling suggestions.”
Shell Belle Couture is synonymous with using the finest silks and French Leavers laces and its intricate attention to detail. For AW14, its “Supper Club” collection focuses on luxury lounging, with beautiful heirloom separates and new delicate touches and finishes.
Eberjey has also found that its customers justify spending their hard-earned money on premium loungewear due to its versatility.
“The nightwear market has evolved over the past five years to suit a woman’s lifestyle, offering ‘loungey’ styles, which are suitable for wearing around the home,” says Osborne. “Our ‘one mile wear’ means you can drive the kids to school, pop out for a pint of milk and still look comfortable and stylish around the home.”
Some key items buyers can expect to see in AW14 loungewear collections include soft jerseys paired with vintage laces, vintage-inspired prints, harem pants, leggings, cosy sweater knits made in cashmere and French mini stripes.
Retailers may have to look to the higher end of the market for loungewear that can be worn outdoors, but they won’t be restricted to premium items when it comes to buying luxury pieces that can be worn around the house or layered with outerwear, and the faithful onesie won’t be doing a disappearing act any time soon, says Slenderella, whose brands offer loungewear at lower prices.
“Loungewear has been a major growth area for us, with consumers looking to relax in a luxury dressing gown, leisure pyjama or onesie when they get home after a hard day at work,” says Splendlove.
“One customer actually complained to me the other day, saying that we had ruined her social life. All she seems to do now when she gets home is put her Slenderella dressing gown on and never leaves the house. With heating bills rising, people are investing more in warmer items.”
Tweed agrees. “Cosy is king!” he declares. “Soft nightwear/loungewear that can be layered with different statement pieces, either from sleepwear or outerwear will perform well in AW14.”
So what can buyers expect from nightwear trends beyond AW14? Will nightwear continue to be a self-purchase category once the economy picks up and people start venturing out more.
Tsamados believes that the demand for good quality product and good prices will remain, requiring manufacturers to find new production solutions and revaluate their supply chain.
“A number of British companies such as Marks and Spencer’s have re establish their production in Britain in order to re boost their manufacturing status,” she says. “The made in Europe tag will be a prerequisite for the future nightwear and loungewear products as the cheap, Far East production will be disregarded.”
Meanwhile, Tweed believes that nightwear and loungewear will continue to be an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe. “We are confident the category will remain strong in the coming years. The boundaries between nightwear and day wear will continue to blur and cross over,” he says.