Is premiumisation in clothing retail the emperor’s new clothes?

Verdict’s 2009 UK clothing market report might have thrown up some obvious stats – such as women spend more on clothes than men – but looking deeper into the data shows opportunities for creative retail marketers to latch onto.

MaryLou Costa
MaryLou Costa

By all accounts, all sectors of the clothing market are being pushed upwards – value moving further into the midmarket, the midmarket producing premium ranges and the premium market arching ever upwards to provide a more luxurious offering. But this doesn’t necessarily mean retailers will be churning more garments into an already crowded market; it means ranges will be selected with more care and precision to make sure the different offerings will be represented adequately to consumers.

The advice by analysts for clothing retailers to focus on offering a premium range and to diversify their market would be brushed off as old hat by the early adopters that are present in every market. And what we know about early adopters is that if they can keep a market captive, they will always be seen as the market leader.

Premium ranges have been released from the likes of Marks & Spencer and its Limited Collection, which takes a leaf out of the catwalk trends book in its designs. New Look has also added to its affordable fashion range with a series of sub-brands, that attempt to emulate high fashion trends.

Both moves have seen both retailers expand their appeal beyond their original target audiences; in M&S’s case it has helped the brand recast itself in a younger light, on the other hand New Look has developed an offering that can appeal outside its original young, value driven market. And if Danni Minogue and Beyonce like what they are doing, they must be doing something right.

It remains to be seen however if Tesco’s attempt to sell “couture” will fly – I read a comment after the news was announced that doubted whether Nicole Kidman would want to be seen in Tesco couture on the red carpet.

But who knows – if the experience was right and “premium” enough, as Verdict’s analysts recommend, it could work to attract a higher end customer. Marketing Week has certainly published enough studies this year so far about how important a brand’s experience – in stores, online, pre and post purchase – is in creating the overall brand image and positive perception.


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