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Is Denim On The Decline? Jean Makers See Sharp Drop In Sales

PITTSBURGH (CBS) -- This year, the time-honored tradition of back to school shopping is less likely to include one traditional back to school staple, denim jeans.

Analysts report U.S. jean sales are down six percent year-to-year and consumer researchers speculate that the market may be saturated.

"People have variety. They have a lot of denim already," says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow. "We've had such huge growth in denim in the past decade…there's a natural tapering off. Consumers love to try new things and I think leggings and athletic wear are kind of filling that bill."

Yarrow points to what's being called the "ath-leisure" trend, where women of all ages are opting for leggings and yoga pants instead of jeans as a possible cause for the decline. Many men are a choosing jean alternatives, like cotton pants and khakis.

"Six percent is huge," said Yarrow. "I think, first and foremost, denim will probably come down a bit in price. I think the other thing we're going to be seeing is a lot more innovation, different ways of wearing jackets vest and so on. There will just be more creativity."

Many jean companies have begun using alternative fabrics, or have launched sportswear lines of their own.

Levi Straus – a name synonymous with denim – tells us that, while overall denim sales are down, it has seen a renewed interest in things like denim shorts and jackets.

Levi's says, after 161-years in business, the company is used to seeing trends come and go.

"Denim is never going to go away," said Yarrow.

Consumer experts say one thing that does make this downturn unusual is that even though we've seen it before, it's never gone on for this long; and that's what has them convinced that at least in the short term, you'll be able to find pretty good sales on jeans.

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