Ralph Lauren at his fall 2015 runway show. Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
From June 25 to July 4, we'll be examining — and at times, celebrating — all things American made, from the state of U.S. apparel manufacturing to American-born models on the rise. You can follow all of our coverage here.
When it comes to sales, Europe's leading fast fashion brands have the American competition almost wholly beat — Oregon-based Nike excepted. With nearly $31 billion in annual sales, driven by the unprecedented growth of the activewear market, and Nike's own strong branding and global product offering, not even H&M, which brought in around $22 billion last year, is close to topping it. Nor are America's other apparel brands, the largest of which, Ralph Lauren, generated $7.6 billion in 2014.
Because it's almost America's birthday, we decided to compile a list of the biggest U.S. apparel brands according to sales, which you can see below. As we mentioned, Nike came out on top by a large margin, followed by leading lifestyle brand Ralph Lauren.
Following those two international giants is Old Navy, which surpassed its sister brand Gap in annual revenue last year by a few million. Once at the top of its game, Gap, like many specialty retailers, has seen declining sales for the past several years, and is currently in the process of closing a quarter of its North American stores. However, in the grand scheme of clothing retail, Gap's annual revenue — about $6.2 billion in 2014 — is still very significant, and fairly new CEO Art Peck has been working hard to streamline its operations and assemble a cohesive design team.
Following Gap and Old Navy are three brands with very different businesses: Michael Kors, Coach and Tommy Hilfiger. Tommy Hilfiger and the rapidly expanding Michael Kors are lifestyle brands that span a wide range of categories and price points, from women's ready-to-wear to handbags to bedsheets to fragrances, and also operate sizable outlet businesses. Coach, which is largely focused on leather goods in the contemporary price category, has seen its revenue decline sharply over the past few years, though a new CEO and creative director have laid the groundwork for a promising turnaround.
What's conspicuously missing from the list are the nation's top teen retailers. Like American specialty retailers, teen retailers have struggled to compete with the rising popularity of fast fashion brands, discount chains and outlets, as well as teens' shifting spending habits from clothing to technology. Of the big four — Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, American Eagle and Aeropostale — American Eagle is the only one to make the top 10. AE is not exactly thriving, but it's doing significantly better than its competitors, which it attributes to its more competitive pricing, customer service and product.
Behind American Eagle is another activewear company: Maryland-based Under Armour, which is currently the fastest-growing brand in the activewear category. Its sales increased by 32 percent last year to more than $3 billion, and international revenue grew a staggering 96 percent. Expect this one to climb up the list in the coming years, providing people remain as obsessed with activewear as they are at the moment.
Under Armour is followed by Gap Inc.-owned Banana Republic, which, yes, did better than its main competitor J.Crew despite its own slumping sales and new creative director Marissa Webb's failure (so far) to improve them. While Banana raked in about $2.9 billion last year, J.Crew (excluding Madewell) only managed to bring in $2.3 billion.
A final note about the list: We ranked each company according to annual revenue across all regions for its most recent fiscal year, which varies slightly by company.
Annual revenue: $30.6 billion
2. Ralph Lauren
Annual revenue: $7.6 billion
3. Old Navy
Annual revenue: $6.6 billion
Annual revenue: $6.2 billion
5. Michael Kors
Annual revenue: $4.4 billion
Annual revenue: $4.3 billion
7. Tommy Hilfiger
Annual revenue: $3.6 billion
8. American Eagle
Annual revenue: $3.3 billion
9. Under Armour
Annual revenue: $3.1 billion
10. Banana Republic
Annual revenue: $2.9 billion
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