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BUCKLING UNDER PRESSURE

Nobody needs a belt when they’re not wearing pants

A display of hanging belts
Reuters/Eric Thayer
Belt sales are feeling the cinch during the pandemic.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

This Thanksgiving will see fewer Americans loosening new belts to make room for all the turkey they’ve eaten.

That’s because belt sales have taken a hit from the pandemic. Fashion purchases overall are down in many countries as shoppers sheltering at home have prioritized spending on other categories. In countries such as the US and UK, those who are buying pants are frequently opting for stretchy, comfortable styles rather than structured and rigid ones. You don’t need a belt when your pants have an elastic waistband—if you’re wearing pants at all.

Euromonitor International, a company that provides market research, forecasts sales of belts will be down around the world this year. The Asia-Pacific region, the largest market for belts globally, will see sales fall about 13% to $7.5 billion. The next largest markets, North America and western Europe, will see much bigger declines, dropping to about $2.3 billion and $1.6 billion respectively.

The good news for belts is Euromonitor still predicts growth in the long term. In 2024, it expects sales will be above pre-pandemic levels in every market but North America. Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa will see the strongest growth with sales in each rising about a third over their 2019 levels. North America, meanwhile, will see belt sales shrink. Maybe it’s just too hooked on stretch pants to ever go back.

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