Affluent Shoppers Are Playing a Larger Role in Fashion, Study Concludes

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From Gucci's Cruise 2014 Collection

From Gucci’s Cruise 2014 Collection

Stevens, PA—Although the so-called mass market accounts for the most sales in the fashion industry, a new study found that affluent consumers (the top 20% of U.S. households by income) account for about 40% of the total $361.2 billion fashion market.

What’s more, these affluent consumers are accounting for the most growth within the fashion market. While the total fashion market posted a 4.8% increase year-over-year, the affluent consumers spend 8% more: from $131.9 million in 2011 to $242.5 billion in 2012.

That’s what Unity Marketing found in its latest report, “The Fashionable Affluent: Decoding the Fashion Choices of Affluent Men and Women Shoppers” based upon a survey of 1,269 affluent consumers (average income $264,300; 42% men/58% women; 46% aged 24 to 44 years/54% aged 45 to 70). Due to the size of their disposable incomes, these shoppers have the ability to update their wardrobes more frequently and, as the “heavy lifters” of the consumer economy, account for a greater share of most company’s revenues—whether they intentionally target affluents or not.

“Three-fourths of the luxury consumers surveyed plan to make a fashion purchase over the next twelve months.  Further 25% of planned clothing buyers and 20% of fashion accessories buyers expect to spend more in the coming year as compared to last; a very positive perspective,” says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and lead researcher in the new research.

Luxury Brands Need to Pay More Attention to Older Customers,Too

“But marketers shouldn’t make the mistake to think it will be easy to get their share of the affluents’ bigger fashion budget through 2014. There are significant challenges ahead given the current mindset of these shoppers,” Danziger explains. “Our aim in this study is to put some of the common misconceptions about the well-off fashion customers to rest and reveal the true profile of the affluent customer who will be shopping in the future.”

Among the key findings:

●Women’s and men’s fashion profiles vary widely: “When it comes to fashion shopping, men are definitely from Mars, and women from Venus,” Danziger says.  “Women are far more likely to plan to shop for casual clothing, while men will invest more in professional, business attire.  Fashion accessories remain the obsession for women, but with a planned accessories budget averaging about $1,500 in the coming year, that doesn’t allow for the purchase of too many Louis Vuitton purses or pairs of Louboutin heels.”

●Time to recognize the mature woman and her needs—”Fashion designers in general have been slow to embrace the customer who doesn’t fit the body image that they like to see on the runway, which is young and thin,” Danziger says. “Traditionally the fashion business has been a youth-skewing business with styles fitted to a younger woman’s figure. But in this survey we found mature women aged 55 to 70 years were just as active planning clothing purchases as those aged 24 to 34 years.  Retailers and designers need to be ready to meet this overlooked customer segment with fashions styled and sized for her and appropriate for her lifestyle.”

●The affluent are looking for bargains, too—“While the affluent have plenty of money to spend, they simply don’t want to pay full price when it comes to fashion,” Danziger notes. Affluents estimated that more than half of the fashion items bought in the past year were on sale or at a discount. Furthermore, store sales and discounts are a key factor that brings them to the store to shop.

“In the latest survey price rose in relative importance in the affluent’s purchase decision, as compared with a similar survey conducted in 2011. Today’s affluent shopper is far more interested in finding attractive styles sold at discounted prices. Designers and retailers that hit the right combination of price and style, coupled with a strong designer brand will attract more of his or her spending.”

In its report, Unity identifies three distinct types of fashion shopping personalities and their shopping patterns. In fact, only about 25% of the affluent consumer market can be defined as a “fashion-forward” shopper, one who spends lavishly and shops often for latest and greatest.

The other two personalities, fashion pragmatist and fashion minimalist, both spend far less on fashion than the fashion-forward personality, thus challenging designers, retailers and marketers in how to encourage them to buy their wares. Customizing customer service to each personality is crucial, Danziger adds.

“Fashion sales assistants need to be trained to understand the different types of fashion customers and how best to sell to their unique consumer psychology. A highly-confident fashion-forward personality is looking for something entirely different when shopping than is the minimalist or the pragmatist.  One-size-fits-all sales efforts will not be effective.  Retailers need to work with their sales staff to understand the different types of fashion customers and to service each of them properly in order to satisfy their special needs and desires,” Danziger says.

For further information about the Fashionable Affluent report, see



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