A generation that has learnt its fashion mantras from closely watching celebs, reading blogs and surfing the internet can probably never err with trends.
The life of college goers has changed tremendously, as looking good and scoring good are both a priority. However, a hurdle that continues to dangle over their heads is money. Dependence on parents and lack of an income to buy cool, trendy clothes is still an issue for today's young. The good part is, unlike a decade back when there was a serious dearth of stores that offered trendy clothes at thrift prices, today there is a world of options to choose from.
Going kind on pocket
When it comes to buying chic apparel, college goers have no rival. Globally, this age group is most open to experimenting and easily embraces colours, designs and textiles that are in vogue. According to Nacs.org, on an average, college students spend US$ 69 for fashion clothing in a typical month, reflecting the importance of affordable clothing market. Young men spend US$ 90 per month on clothes, compared to the women spending US$ 57.
According to Paul Himmelfarb, managing director at Youth Marketing Connection that helps the marketing team of various brands to connect with college students, "College students are wary of old-school marketing. You have to take a brand and incorporate it into the college lifestyle by peer-to-peer marketing."
As a young consumer group, college students are of significant importance. They have easy access to credit cards and many students have part-time jobs to make quick bucks. College goers are mostly enticed by fast fashion brands, as these stores offer inexpensive products with variety. The dramatic drop in prices of apparel sold by fast fashion chains and their quick adaptability to changing fashion trends have helped in the growth of these brands. This Gen Y market is used to availability of apparel just a click away, so they are also impatient. Retailers constantly try to grab their attention, offering lowest possible price points on products.
Brands in business
Companies like Limited, Express, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret and Gap pay close attention to the needs of this group. However, the most popular brands that are affordable and up-to-date include Zara, Forever 21 and H&M. Japan's Uniqlo that targets young college goers is also looking to open 200 stores in the United States of America by 2020. H&M has 55 stores there.
The marketing strategy has changed, as many regular stores and brands like Urban Outfitters, Target and Macy's that catered to the needs of young college goers have reported dwindling sales. Companies like Delia's are running up losses. Delia's has filed for bankruptcy protection in 2014. Deb Shops and Delia's are extremely kind on students' pockets, but these stores are finding it tough to survive competition from Zara, H&M etc.
Yet, not everyone is complaining. Zara, hailed as the icon of fast fashion targeting youngsters, has maintained profits. Forever 21 has managed to create inexpensive clothing within days of them being launched on runways. H&M is also popular among young college students as the products are affordable and trendy.
Nevertheless, even for brands earning profits, the competition is likely to get intense, as college students discover better ways to look stylish with little money. Though Zara is one of the popular brands, there are others scoring high on price points and giving stores like Zara a run for their money.
Unbranded overrides branded
Brands are in for a surprise as more than the label, it is the style at cheap cost that is becoming a priority for college goers.
In spite of everything, most of the college goers prefer buying apparel that does not dig a hole in pocket. With local boutiques offering customised garments at inexpensive rates, students may pass over Zara or H&M. Moreover, there are many local stores that remain unexplored but offer unique and stylish garments.
There has also been significant drop in brand loyalty especially among young customers. College students are in search for something fresh and within their budget. Thus, they do not mind buying non-branded apparel if it is trendy.
According to WSL Strategic Retail report, the fate of retailers like Urban Outfitters, Aeropostale, Gap, etc is changing following cautious spending by college students. Marketing techniques are now increasingly focused on the college groups that currently lack spending power, yet are likely to contribute to increasing sales.
Another report, Moving On 2012 mentioned that during shopping, 80 per cent of millennials searched for lowest possible price and that around 60 per cent managed to overlook their preferred brand when an alternative was available at lower cost.
Scene in India
In countries like India where the young population dominates, apparel stores are eager to provide a variety of apparel to young people, at a low price. In India, the population below 25 is more than 50 per cent, out of which college goers represent 18.1 per cent. Brands like Madame are popular among young college girls, but more than the brands, it is street fashion that rules college students' hearts.
Tibetan Market in Delhi is a popular place for Delhi University students. It is famous for unbranded and low price trendy clothes and accessories. Delhi's Sarojini Nagar Market is another hot spot for unbranded economical apparel shopping. Likewise, Mumbai's Fashion Street is one of the best places to find latest trends at low prices and it is well-liked among youngsters.
In India, brands are targeting college students through online sales and offers. Some top online retail portals have collaborated with international brands to establish a strong customer base in India. The United Kingdom's high street fashion brand Dorothy Perkins has joined forces with Jabong to deliver an all-encompassing range of dresses to college youth.
Something that has set the online affordable retail market on fire in India is the emergence of websites like Shopclue, Naaptol, Indiatimes and Rediff, which are offering "combo" clothing packages at cut-throat cheaper prices. For example, a Fibre2Fashion analysis of the Indiatimes shopping website showed a combination of four polo T-shirts and a lesser known branded watch was available only for Rs 999. A combination of 10 plain women leggings were sold at Rs 1,164 on the same website. Collegians love such offers, as they are a cheaper option than buying a pile of clothing. These websites also offer other clothing combinations topped with add-on deals, such as selling jeans and gifting accessories, caps or other valuable stuff in the offer.
Role of e-coupons and resale
Other factors that have made apparel shopping economical for college students are e-coupons and resale concepts. E-coupons are a regular part of online shopping portals. These coupons offer discount or free products on purchase of a certain quantity. College goers especially save a lot of money on the deals offered through e-coupons. Moreover, sites like eBay and Etsy also resale used clothing from luxury brands like Chanel, Versace etc. These sites are popular among college students who cannot afford to pay an arm and a leg for such brands. These sites have redefined the meaning of luxury by making it accessible to youngsters.