Profiling the Mature Fashion-Conscious Apparel Shopper

Article excerpt

Profiling The Mature Fashion-Conscious Apparel Shopper

Market segmentation and submarket profiling are two widely used strategic marketing tools. While marketing research has addressed the segmenting of student and adult populations, only minor attention has been directed toward the identification and profiling of segments that may exist within the senior citizen market. The few attempts that have been made to profile mature consumers have treated this market as a homogeneous group relative to size, spending power, and media preference [6, 29] rather than as a heterogeneous market as suggested by Towle and Martin [50], Langer [24], Gelb [16], Baier [3, pp. 170-175], French and Fox [15], and Lumpkin [30]. This stream of research suggests that further examination of subsegments within the mature market is needed in order to more fully understand the shopping orientation and behavior of the mature consumer and to aid in the development of viable marketing mixes.

Fashion-consciousness has been used as a segmentation base, and profiles of fashion-conscious consumers have been developed for most market segments [13, 20, 37, 46]. The major focus of previous research has been on the defining and understanding of fashion-conscious segments as they relate to buyer behavior and promotional efforts. Activity, interest, and opinion statements have been utilized to identify and profile fashion-oriented market segments [19, 30, 39, 48]. None of these efforts, however, has developed profiles of older fashion-oriented shoppers and compared the findings with those of other age groups.

While not often associated with older shoppers, fashion-consciousness is a consumer attribute of potential value to marketers in segmentation and media planning efforts [21, 39]. Since a high proportion of active mature consumers has been found to be relatively heavy spenders for clothing [30, 49], it is likely that a fashion-conscious segment exists among older apparel shoppers. Moreover, the notions of cognitive reference age [4, 5] and patterns of adjustment to retirement [15] suggest that many older people see themselves as younger than their chronological age--preferring instead to identify themselves with the middle-aged--and, thus, may be likely to maintain an interest in apparel fashions.

BACKGROUND

Fashion Consciousness

Conceptually, fashion-consciousness suggests a degree of involvement in styles or fashions of clothing [46]. One need not be an opinion leader in the area of clothing fashions to be considered fashion-conscious. Nor, as Summers [46] has pointed out, is venturesomeness in clothing a necessary condition to fashion-consciousness or opinion leadership. Rather, fashion-consciousness is characterized by an interest in clothing fashions and in one's appearance [19].

Several studies provide empirical evidence of the existence of a fashion-conscious mature market segment. Martin [31] found that the majority of female respondents aged 60 years and older perceived themselves as fashion-conscious, and a high proportion said they enjoyed shopping for clothes. Another study reported that older shoppers maintain an interest in fashion and express a desire to look different from their peers [38, p. 173]. More recently, Lumpkin [30] found that about one in three mature male and female clothing shoppers could be categorized as "active apparel shoppers" who are socially active and interested in clothing fashions. These findings indicate that marketers should take a closer look at the mature market when formulating marketing strategies.

Fashion Consciousness and Aging

Social gerontologists generally agree that as a person ages, he or she passes through life course stages [2]. As persons progress from middle age (40-59 years) into the later maturity stage (late 50's to 75 years), they experience a reduction in formal societal roles such as retirement, children leaving home, and the death of friends or spouse. …