Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clothing Retailers Begin to He Importance of Consumer Research

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clothing Retailers Begin to He Importance of Consumer Research

Article excerpt

WHEN ANNA WINTOUR, the much-publicized editor of Vogue, declared in 1990 that "Black is Out!" - after the non-color had reigned as the color of the '80s - retail buyers and sellers cried heresy.

Even so, department stores in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles filled their window displays with pinks, chartreuses and reds, staying true to a long traditon of blindly following marching orders from the fashion houses and fashion press.

Shoppers were unmoved. Not only did black not die, it hung on with a vengeance. Vivid testimony to that was found recently in - what else? - Wintour's Vogue, in which no less than two dozen pages are filled with black fashions.

But while women's increasing resistance to the whims of the fashion world has been well-documented, clothing manufacturers and retailers are just now waking up to the importance of consumer research.

"Unfortunately, it's been all too true in all too many cases for the designers and manufacturers to want to set the pace for fashions," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Marketing Report.

Having been burned one too many times by failed dictates, "clothing manufacturers are starting to go to consumers first to find out what they'd really like," Barnard said.

And among the questions for which a growing number of apparel retailers and manufacturers are seeking answers are ones involving consumer color preferences.

That became apparent last summer, when the new Pantone Consumer Color Preference Study was released at a news conference in New York. The study was the first of its kind to try to determine current and future color trends based on the demographics and lifestyles of 3,370 respondents.

"We were amazed at the response. We thought we would do the study for just one year, but so many manufacturers and retailers showed interest that we decided to do it again," said Mimi Cooper, co-founder of Cooper Marketing Group in Oak Park, Ill.

Her firm conducted the study with the Pantone Color Institute, a New Jersey-based international color consultancy to designers, manufacturers and consumers, but went solo for this year's survey.

Other market-research firms have found a similar increase in interest from the apparel industry.

For example, the telephone survey division of Audits & Surveys Inc., a major market research company, said that, in just the last few weeks, it has noticed an increase in the number of clients who want information on consumer color preferences in clothes.

Apparel manufacturers, rather than retailers, are more likely to be interested in such information "because they want to be armed with research proving that their clothes are preferred when they go to a retailer," said Carl Ravitch, executive vice president of Audits & Surveys.

In its latest survey, Cooper Marketing discovered what Vogue apparently concluded as well. …

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