There are challenges galore for the retailers to measure up to fads of fashion consumers. "Consumers want things that will make their lives easier," was a stock reply from most of the consumers says Ian Mitchell, business unit director at Kantar World panel Fashion. Nearly half of consumers say that the most important factor when they buy a fashion item is price.


"The next most important factor is quality," says Ian Mitchell, business unit director at Kantar World panel Fashion. "Younger people are slightly less concerned about price but slightly more concerned about the look of the product and older people [are] probably slightly more concerned about quality and just as concerned about price." "What this means" was the moot point. This was the main theme at a conference organised by the ASBCI (Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry) recently, the conclusion was "consumers want good value." But good value does not necessarily mean cheap, because "the thing about price is that even cheap items get more expensive", he said.


The reality is that consumers are paying higher prices but they're also buying fewer items. This has been a consistent trend over the last few years, according to Kantar figures, with prices for fashion products 1% higher last month, compared to the prior year period. One thing that affects price is promotion, Mitchell said, because consumers find it difficult to resist. Last year, more than one in three fashion items were sold at a discount in the UK. As the cost of living continues to rise, "the challenge for retailers is to engage with their consumers."


The use of technology is also helping "retailers connect with their customers" - and is growing fast across all age groups. Systems such as Click & Collect are booming, according to Mitchell, while Browse and Order (where consumers can order products via an in-store device) and contact-less payments are also making shopping more convenient.


Consumers "want to know that they're getting a good price [and] good value, so they don't have to shop around to see if they could have got it cheaper elsewhere. They want a choice because they're not loyal, and they want convenience [be it] online, high street or a combination."


Consumer convenience


The first challenge before the retailers is engaging with consumers, especially online. Internet psychologist Graham Jones said the amount of time people spend deciding whether to stay on a website is 0.56 of a second. "We haven't got a lot of time to engage with people, so what we've got to do is really get inside their heads," he said. Jones agreed with Mitchell that convenience is key for consumers, and helps people decide whether they're going to make a decision to buy a product they see online. "We've got to be convenient. It's got to be quick and easy to use," he noted. "Your web presence has got to be convenient, it's got to be likeable, it's got to be informative, customised, and knowledgeable. If you demonstrate all of those things, and you demonstrate them at the subconscious level, then people will stay on your website for much longer than that 0.56 of a second."