‘Fashion Forwards’ Pack a Punch

Jul 01, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Although a small part of the buying public, fashion forward customers
drive and influence a large share of sales in apparel as well as other categories,
according to a new study from Acxiom.

Axciom’s Retail Consumer Dynamics study,
based on insights drawn from the BIGresearch CIA and SIMM surveys, broke customers
into three segments: “value driven,” representing half of all shoppers; “conservative/traditional,” 34
percent; and “fashion forward”, 16 percent.

The groups were described:

  • Fashion Forward: “Newest trends and styles are important when
    shopping for apparel.”
  • Conservative/Traditional: “I prefer a traditional conservative
  • Value Driven: “Fashion is less important than value and comfort.”

Though it’s the smallest of the three groups, fashion forward women in
particular spend 1.7 times as much on apparel as conservative/traditional women
and 2.7 times as much as value driven women, on average.

Collectively, fashion
forward women account for 32 percent of total women’s
apparel purchases, approximately equal to the same dollar value as either of
the other two groups.

“What they lack in numbers, they make up for in spending power,” said
Jim Harold, vice president for Acxiom’s retail group, in a statement.

findings from the study:

  • Fifty-three percent of fashion forwards have household incomes of less
    than $50,000 annually. Only 14 percent exceed $100,000.
  • Fashion forwards are twice as likely than the other segments to spend more
    on apparel in coming months. Similar rates were seen across categories such
    as electronics, home furnishings, sporting goods and health and beauty aids.
  • Department store (38 percent), was the store fashion forwards most often
    shopped for apparel, followed closely by specialty apparel (32 percent).
    Discount stores still came in fairly high at 18 percent.
  • Fifty-three percent of fashion forward women are “extremely likely
    to recommend” friends and colleagues to a preferred store for women’s
    apparel. That compares to 39 percent for conservative/traditional and 36
    percent for value driven.
  • Fashion forwards are predominantly younger, with 33 percent of millennials
    fitting the segment. But their presence and influence can be found in all
    age groups. Seventeen percent of Gen X ranked as fashion forwards and seven
    percent of boomers. Only for seniors, at one percent, was their influence
    noticeable smaller.

“This group has what we call a multiplier effect,” Mr. Harold said. “They
spend more and they are the most likely to refer friends and colleagues to their
preferred retailer.”

Not surprisingly, fashion forwards are more demanding
as well. In probing reasons why women buy apparel at their preferred retailer,
newest styles indexed highest, 269; followed by fashion ideas, 247; newest
fabrics, 218, and quality, 129.

In-store experience was also critical for fashion
forwards. Store appearance indexed at 156; store layout, 145; service, 131,
and knowledgeable salespeople, 131. Also indexing particularly high was store
loyalty card, 144; store credit card, 122 and advertising, 127. Price indexed
at 100.

Discussion Questions: Are stores underestimating the buying power of Fashion
Forwards? What more can they be doing to target this influential group?

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4 Comments on "‘Fashion Forwards’ Pack a Punch"

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David Morse
David Morse
10 years 10 months ago
As much as I like a good market research study and appreciate those companies that share their data, there is nothing new here. Apparel manufacturers and retailers have always appreciated the value of fashion-forward consumers. That’s why many manufacturers like Levi’s adopt a tiered sales strategy, selling their basic styles to discounters or mainstream stores and their more upscale brands to department stores and/or boutique style shops. Levi’s, for instance, avoided selling to Wal-Mart for years. When they finally gave in to the store’s alluring volume potential, they limited sales to the most basic styles, and reserved their designer clothing for upscale shops. Many fashion forward shoppers are driven by a sense of exclusivity, deriving pleasure in buying and wearing clothing that other people would not buy or could not pull off wearing. This study oversimplifies. It ignores the Cultural Creative types, those who pride themselves on shopping at Neiman Marcus and thrift stores alike. It states the obvious. As much as Kohl’s or Kmart would love to bring these fashion forward folks into their… Read more »
Roger Saunders
10 years 10 months ago
The ACXIOM Study clearly points out the superb benefit of monitoring the ‘Cross Shopping’ and ‘Cross Channel’ shopping patterns of the consumer. Retailers and marketing consultants cannot overlook the fact that various segments of the population (demographic, geographic, or behavior) will play a significant leadership role in spend. Consumers, who see themselves as “Fashion Forward” DO BEHAVE in taking ‘Cross Channel’ shopping ventures. Such consumers feel comfortable in shopping Nieman Marcus in the morning and TJ Maxx and Kohl’s in the afternoon. Consultants who are viewing the data accurately, and observing consumers, understand that fact. That ‘Cross Channel’ behavior plays out in terms of age, income, and much more. Listening to the consumer in this regard provides retailers with the flexibility that they need to effectively communicate their message, merchandise local and regional stores properly, and alter in-store operations efforts. The winners on the retail and consultancy side pay close attention to where the consumer has been, AND where they are going. ACXIOM has hit this topic accurately, and in a useful manner for retailers.
ken gronbach
10 years 10 months ago

Ever wonder why change in fashion apparel is so intense some years and then seems to be on hold for others? We have been in a fashion drought here in the States for at least a decade. The reason? Poor sales. When apparel sales are poor or flat, manufacturers and retailers will not take the risk attendant with fashion forward products and tend to stick with safe sellers.

So why have sales been soft for so long? Tiny Generation X (born 1965 to 1984) has dominated the peak fashion/clothing buying years of twenty-five to thirty-five years old. When the huge Baby Boomer Generation occupied this demo in the seventies and eighties, fashion and apparel in general was on fire. Now fashion is about to be influenced by Generation Y (born 1985 to 2004). It is the biggest most consuming generation in the history of the United States. We have every reason to believe that the significance of Fashion Forward is about to increase geometrically. Changing demography is the driver of changing fashion, from our perspective.

Jerry Gelsomino
10 years 10 months ago

I am surprised that the category “Fast Followers” was completely ignored. This is the large category of shoppers who feel safe following a trend once it has been introduced by the fashion leaders. It is a safer group to be part of, but not as safe as the conservative who almost wait until the trend is over before they get in.


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