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Sizing kids clothing by age is least reliable way of sizing childrenswear
04
Oct '10
Height and waist sizes are a better indicator of 'fit' than age; childrenswear sales volumes are down but value up as grandparents and fathers' help out with shopping; and cross shopping retail strategies are paying off as consumers prefer to shop under one roof in supermarkets, discount and department stores.

These were just some of the findings presented by an eminent line-up of speakers at the latest ASBCI seminar entitled 'The Childrenswear Challenge – responding to a growing market' held at Wicksteed Park in Northamptonshire. Over 120 delegates heard expert speakers from across the supply chain present on a number of key issues currently impacting the childrenswear sector. These included the changing size and shape of children; who is buying childrenswear, where and why?; children's clothing safety and design innovations; the importance of risk assessment and standards in children's clothing; the key role played by image licensing; and how brands and retailers can use social networking sites to build better customer relationships.

Julie King, ASBCI events director and head of fashion and textiles at De Montfort University chaired the day's proceedings which opened with an incisive keynote presentation from Ian Mitchell, strategic insight director with Kantar WorldpanelFashion. Based on research derived from 15,000 consumers Kantar has identified that while “shoppers” are currently buying fewer childrenswear items they are spending an average of three per cent more on their purchases.

The weak pound he predicted may continue to push up average prices into 2011 but it is still too early to say how this will impact consumer spend. He explained that in the last five years the 55+ year grandparent consumer group are increasingly “helping out” the recession hit 25 to 34 year old sector by “gifting” children's clothes – in 2010 25 per cent of all kidswear is being bought as a gift. While women still account for the majority of childrenswear sales men now account for a quarter of the market spend, a rise of eight per cent since 2006, with 56 per cent preferring to shop in multiples, sports shops and supermarkets.

Only five per cent of men and women buy their kidswear in children's independents. Indeed, the multiples and discounters dominate sales in the childrenswear market as 52 per cent of kidswear shoppers say they like to shop for everything under one roof and with 75 per cent of all shoppers buying across departments. This is good news for the likes of Next, Asda, Tesco, Primark and Matalan who have developed good “cross shopping” retail concepts that encourage consumers to browse, stay and shop. Kantar predicts that dedicated children's and other specialist retailers, as exemplified in the demise of Adams, will continue to struggle especially as children after the 13 years “tipping point” reject “mini-me” childrenswear in preference for adult fashion.

Indeed, “children are not children for long,” confirmed sizing, shape and fit guru, Ed Gribbin, president of Alvainsight, a division of Alvanon Inc. He has identified a dramatic change in the buying behaviour of the “tween” segment as children as young as eight, nine, ten and 11 have adopted the sophisticated buying preferences of their 12 and 13 year old predecessors. Using statistical evidence from recent sizing surveys he went on to explain: “ Children are getting bigger at a much slower rate in Western countries than they are in China – US and UK obesity rates grew at a much faster rate in the 80's and 90's than they are growing today.” He added: “In GB specifically, there are statistics that indicate that the percentage of kids who are overweight or obese has actually levelled off and may be declining, slightly.” In his opinion the clothing industry has overreacted to health statistics, highlighted by unfavourable media coverage, which may not in fact always correlate to clothing sizes.

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