London Fashion Week: Older fashionistas lead in demands for more stylish clothing

September 19, 2016

Theresa May – she’s one of Britain’s latest fashion icons, but it seems that she is not alone as a woman of a certain age who is dedicated to fashion. Indeed, as London Fashion Week kicks off this Friday (16th September) and Theresa May gets set to host a fashion week party at Number 10, new research from Mintel highlights a passion for fashion among Britain’s more mature women, presenting significant opportunities for the womenswear sector.

The over-55s are leading the way in the quest for more stylish fashion, indeed, today, just under half (44%) of ladies aged 55 and over say they would like more stylish clothes for their age, compared to an average of 32% of all women.

What is more, many of Britain’s more mature ladies have a real eye for quality, with women aged over 45 significantly more likely than younger shoppers to prioritise product quality. Almost three quarters (74%) of women aged over 55 highlight product quality in clothing as important, compared to just 55% of 16-24s. Confirming the importance of looking good at an older age, some 75% of over-55s agree that it is more important for them to look the best for their age than to look younger than their age.

Overall, the vast majority (89%) of ladies aged over 55 have bought clothing in the past year, and 41% have bought three or four different product styles.

89% of ladies aged over 55 have bought clothing in the past year

Alice Goody, Retail Analyst at Mintel, said:

“With over-55s set to be the fastest-growing demographic over the next five years, catering for these women presents an opportunity for the womenswear market, particularly given their higher disposable income than the increasingly squeezed young. Their preference for style and quality over low prices bodes well for the value of the market. The fact that the vast majority of over 55s have bought clothing in the past year suggests there is scope to grow spend among this under-served area of the market. Increasingly fashion-conscious, these women are also working until an older age, or even into retirement, creating a need for a professional look later in life and highlighting their importance of clothes as an investment. However, a key issue for the mature shopper is the lack of stylish clothing for their age, suggesting retailers need to be working closer with their target customer when developing their ranges.”

One key consideration for the over-55s market is the issue of sizing. Almost a quarter of females aged 55 and over wear clothes in size 18 and size 20 and over, yet 26% of women aged 55 and over would like to see greater availability of clothes in larger sizes.

“A number of new specialist retailers have launched fashion to cater for the often sidestepped plus-size category. Unless they adapt accordingly, mainstream retailers risk losing out to those providing for this once-niche area of the market.” Alice comments.

Overall sales of womenswear grew by 3.7% to reach £26.9 billion in 2015. However, a discount culture has seen a slight slowdown in sales during 2016, with womenswear sales forecast to grow around 3% in 2016 to reach £27.7 billion. Indeed, the nation’s love of a bargain is highlighted by the fact that 62% of women say low pricing is an important factor when clothes shopping, rising to 69% of 16-24s. Meanwhile, sales and special offers are an important factor to over half (51%) of women.

The market is forecast to break through the £30 billion mark by 2019.

“Growth in the market has slowed as women have become accustomed to purchasing clothing on sale. The market remains resilient, yet retailers should be looking beyond promotions to drive sales. Combining retail with leisure enables retailers to tap into this growing area of spend, while digital innovations can balance a varied shopping experience with the convenience that women seek.” Alice adds.

In an increasingly challenging clothing market, Mintel research indicates that technology presents a big opportunity for clothing retailers to improve the in-store experience and create a more seamless online/offline journey. Today, some four in 10 (40%) women aged 16-24 would like to see improved queues, proving that overcoming this issue should be a key priority for young fashion retailers. Indeed, given their issues with queuing, it is no surprise to see that Mintel research finds the majority (52%) of women aged 16-24 are interested in smart fitting rooms.

Sizing technology to help with buying clothes online is an innovation that the majority (54%) of women are interested in. Indeed, some 43% of women have returned items of clothing they have purchased online in the last year. Poor fit is the biggest reason for returning clothes bought online, with nearly half (48%) of women citing this as the number one factor.

“In an increasingly challenging clothing market, retailers are having to do all they can to stand out from the competition and we are seeing more companies actively searching for the latest technology innovations. As well as offering the latest payment options such as contactless or mobile for quick transactions at the tills, retailers may want to consider investing in smart fitting rooms that let shoppers complete their purchase from the changing room.” Alice concludes.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Womenswear UK 2016 report and interviews with Retail Analyst Alice Goody are available on request from the press office.

Anna Fireman
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