As the number of prime-working-age single women continues to rise, (by 2030, it’s expected to jump to 45 percent) a number of retailers are expected to reap the rewards from that growing population over the course of the next decade.
Women’s changes in economic status could bring a tailwind of spending to apparel and footwear, according to a new 35-page report titled “Rise of the SHEconomy” from Morgan Stanley. Single women, who outspend the average household, are shifting spending toward categories like apparel, food away from home and luxury and electric vehicles.
Spending in these sectors is only expected to increase as the number of single working-aged women increases. Based on Census Bureau data, single women in the U.S. will soon expand from 67 million to 77.5 million.
In part, that’s because women are waiting longer to get married — if they choose to do so at all — and are having fewer children on average. The total fertility rate in the U.S. has dropped from two births per woman in 2009 to 1.73 in 2018.
There are also more women going to college: The study found that the share of women with a bachelor’s degree was 10 percentage points higher than men by 2017, a phenomenon driven by the delay in marriage and increase in women’s labor force participation rate.
“Based solely on our estimate that growth in the singles population will outpace the population as a whole, annual expenditures driven by women should grow disproportionately to other spending cohorts,” the study found.
"Additionally, the rise in labor force participation and closing wage gap should further influence this divergence.”
Best positioned for the gains are retailers like Lululemon, Nike, Ross stores and TJX Companies, the parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, as research has shown that single women (and single men) spend significantly more time exercising than their married counterparts.
The report found that in the restaurant space, while single men generally outspend single women, some chain restaurants are poised to benefit from the shrinking gender wage gap. That includes places like Chipotle and Starbucks.
“Starbucks is already popular with women,” the report said, and Chipotle also has a lot of female customers because “it has both a healthier image vs. most limited service restaurants and relatively high exposure to urban, professional customers.”
“We expect this to remain an advantage as single women increase spending power,” the report said.