Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Retail trends


Courtesy of that Manchester fashionista Norm, comes this business-based analysis of US retail trends for womenswear:

- buying off-mall
- less apparel, more accessories
- more spending on electronics than clothes
- companies like Gap's failed Forth and Towne and Chico's which sell clothes for the 'older woman' are getting it wrong

Looking further into the failure of Forth and Towne, I find this interesting report:

The truth is that age is the last remaining taboo in American marketing. It's okay for manufacturers and retailers to target based on every conceivable demographic and psychographic slice of the market. In this post-feminism age is perfect fine to reach out to women as women. You can target gays. You can put Latinos in the marketing cross-hairs.

But for millions of Americans, any reference to age is dicey. And Forth & Towne wasn't exactly subtle; their website proclaims that they were created for "a new generation of women, determined to find current, wearable fashions in fits that flatter. Women who have grown-up, grown into themselves, and want to look as fabulous as they feel."

That kind of ill-disguised, in-your-face-appeal to the older crowd is bound to backfire. Blame AARP for that. Their ham-handed, stereotypical representations of mindless, happy retirees have made most people over 50 await the arrival of their membership package with the joy that awaits an IRS audit notice.

The Times also pointed out that department stores have experienced something of a resurgence, and that their growth "has overtaken that of specialty clothing chains." That's not a surprise. A 42-year old woman who walks into a department store isn't making a public branding statement about her being 42, as she does when she walks into Forth & Towne. Hence the plug-pulling.

3 comments:

Toby Wollin said...

"A 42-year old woman who walks into a department store isn't making a public branding statement about her being 42, as she does when she walks into Forth & Towne. Hence the plug-pulling."
Ah, the "Fredericks of Hollywood Effect". Buying a sexy bustier in the lingerie dept. of a dept. store is just fine - being seen walking into a Fredericks of Hollywood(or even Victoria's Secret)is NOT.
Chico's is perhaps not great, but they are still way ahead of another retail purveyor or "grown up ladies' clothing", Coldwater Creek, which still insists that women over 40 crave things that have snowmen, snow-women, Christmas trees, etc. embroidered all over them. Nothing screams "old lady in polyester pants" like a snow-person embroidered on a sweater.

Deja Pseu said...

Well, the marketing didn't seem to keep anyone out of my local F&T. It was always packed, and I dropped a bundle in there in the few short months they were open. I still keep hoping someone will pick up that mantle and run with it, even if they market it differently.

L.A. Lady said...

At 50+, I was very happy to walk into Forth & Towne - and walk right back out again. Their styles and colors were very restricted, the stock was limited, the lighting was poor - in Los Angeles, at least, they did a lousy job. I hope somebody will take up this demographic and do a good job...with prices lower than Coldwater Creek!