A few weeks ago, Neri Karra, a professor at the London College of Fashion wrote to me to say she had included The Business of Fashion as part of the curriculum and recommended reading for both her Masters and Undergraduate students of fashion business strategy. Not only this, she kindly invited me to give a short talk to her some of her Master’s students, and yesterday, my 30 minute chat turned into a 1.5 hour debate with some very passionate students from around the world, all of whom are interested in the fashion business. I’d like to thank Neri and her students very much for welcoming me into their classroom and inspiring many so many new ideas for posts here on The Business of Fashion.
One of the topics that came up was about how to choose a target market and ensure that the product for that market meets the customers’ needs — functional needs, emotional needs and budgetary needs. This question came to mind instantly when I came across this article, from The Wall Street Journal’s Teri Agins, on the "Yummy Mummy" market, aka "Soccer Moms". (Incidentally, the WSJ has been particularly good about engaging with bloggers to propagate its content and have even introduced video with embed codes that bring their written content to life. Well done!)
According to the article, in the US alone there is a market of 40m babyboomer women, many of whom feel underserved by the fashion industry, which has been serving up boring clothes that don’t reflect varied attitudes, tastes, lifestyles, and body-types of this group. The NPD Group estimates that clothing purchases by women over 35 accounted for nearly half of the $102.7 billion in women’s clothing purchases in the US. Clearly, this is not chump change and established retailers and upstart brands alike have been scrambling to fill this market gap.
Bloomingdales has developed a new in-store concept called Quotations targeted at women aged 35-55 who are looking for something that is age-appropriate (i.e. doesn’t look like they are wearing their daughter’s clothes), body-appropriate (i.e. you hear the word "bra-friendly" come up a few times in this video), while still being fashionable and on-trend (i.e. declined from runways in NY, London and Paris). The in-store concept has been rolled out across 20 stores and includes a product offering from more than 30 brands.
However, the article missed out on possibly the most successful entrant into the Soccer Mom market thus far: Tory Burch. In only a few years, the former socialite has built a business estimated at more than $100m in revenues, with freestanding retail shops in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Dallas, Greenwich, South Coast Plaza, East Hampton, Bal Harbour, and Chicago, in addition to prestigious wholesale accounts in the US and abroad. Burch’s Brazil-made Reva ballerina shoe became a serious it-shoe and flew off the shelves. The evidence was on the feet of about one in every 5 women I saw in on the Upper East Side of NY earlier this year.
With a good product at accessible price points, strong brand buzz (not in the least hurt by her association to cycling heartthrob Lance Armstrong), and a brand ambassador who is a strong, aspirational face for the company, Tory Burch is the one to watch as the fashion market for babyboomer women continues to develop.