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Shopping Is a Love-Hate Experience

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National Survey Shows Shopping Is a Love-Hate Experience for American Women; Majority Will Use 2001 Tax Refund Checks for Bills and Savings, Not Shopping

Love it or hate it -- that's how American women feel about clothes shopping, despite the popular perception that their love for shopping is genetic. Bucking the comic stereotype of women as "shopaholics," a recent national survey* shows that many women can take it or leave it. While shopping was considered fun or even a hobby by over a third of the respondents queried, an equal number had neutral or even negative feelings. Even the much-anticipated 2001 tax refund checks won't cause a run on the stores: only 17% of the respondents will use the checks to go shopping for clothes or household goods, while an overwhelming majority -- 67% -- say they'll use the checks to add to savings accounts or pay bills. But retailers needn't despair -- despite their mixed feelings, the majority of women polled -- over 55% -- go shopping for clothes regularly, at least twice a month, and as often as twice a week. The survey, commissioned by the WOOLITE(R) Fashion Forum to research women's fashion needs and trends, found that women had some reason to find shopping less compelling. For one, they already have plenty of choices in their closets. Belying the oft-heard complaint "I have nothing to wear," the survey shows that the average American woman owns almost 40 sweaters or T-shirts, and 24 pairs of shoes. And over 6% could give infamous shoe collectors like former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos competition, with more than 50 pairs of shoes on the shelves.

Meanwhile, Back at the Mall Who is the American shopper and what is she wearing now? The vast majority -- almost 4 out of 5 women -- prefer either casual, easy-care clothes or a combination of casual and structured clothes. Only 12% prefer traditional structured suits, dresses or jackets. Surprisingly, half of those queried claimed that their biggest problem when shopping was finding clothes that fit properly or flattered their figures. When asked to express their feelings about fashion, only 17% of American women considered themselves adventurous -- wearing the latest clothes and makeup. One in five women called themselves conservative -- wearing classics with an occasional trendy addition. But a clear majority of 58% dressed more for comfort than for fashion, and 20% claimed "if I can't wash it, I won't wear it." In fact, washability and easy care were rated very important to the purchase decision by 62% of the respondents, and 60% said they would decide not to buy a garment or think twice about the cost of upkeep if it were labeled "dry clean only." These numbers may portend a trend, as a growing number of leading designers and manufacturers are working in washable, easy care fabrics.

Fashion Wish List Asked what beauty splurge they would indulge in if price were no object, women placed fine jewelry at the top of the luxury wish list, followed closely by a cosmetic and hairstyle makeover. Only 24% chose a designer dress or handbag. And cosmetic surgery, such as a face-lift, was the choice of 13% of the women, while a scant 6.5% wished for a fur coat.

Memories of Fashions Past What was the most exciting clothing purchase they'd ever made? The wedding gown, followed by the high-school prom dress, elicited the strongest responses, along with the first pair of high heels. As to any upcoming trips to the mall, who would she take along? Women chose to go shopping with the empathetic Oprah Winfrey, followed by Rosie O'Donnell and actress Ashley Judd.

* The nationally projectable sample of 524 adult women took part in this survey on women's shopping habits executed by an independent market research firm, Bruskin Research, for the WOOLITE(R) Fashion Forum from June 24 -- July 1, 2001. The Woolite Fashion Forum researches trends in women's fashions and provides consumer information on choosing and caring for fabrics. For 50 years, WOOLITE(R) Fabric Wash has been the choice of consumers and fashion designers for the gentle care of a variety of fabrics and fashions. It's the trusted brand that was made specifically for the gentle cycle of the washing machine, but can still be counted on for the traditional hand wash method as well.

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