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Middle Aged Women Hold Life Jacket To Drowning High Street Retailers
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Middle Aged Women Hold Life Jacket To Drowning High Street Retailers

You would have to live in a hole to have missed the fact that retailers are experiencing trying times at the moment with major news papers exhausting adjectives like crisis and desperate, as they discuss falling footfall. With sales figures slipping to the lowest in six months, Philip Green, Topshop boss warning of store closures, even Indetix (Zara's parent company ) who have bucked the trend and performed surprisingly well this year, reported a fall in figures of 11%, 3rd quarter, this week. TV’s retail guru Mary Portas, commissioned by David Cameron to come up with a save the day stategy for the High Street is lobbying for such things as a “National Market Day” and putting gyms side by side stores to help increase human traffic in town centres.

Over the last twenty years we have seen a massive surge in technology innovation. Whilst ecommerce, shopping on the web, has taken a bite out of proverbial High Street retailers’ cake, the online sector predicted to grow 10% year on year, the in store shopping experience has stood still against its more convenient rival. There has been a shift in marketing aspiration to younger and younger customers but even the desire to shut up a whining teenager isn’t enough to keep retailers in business as parents become more and more squeezed.

Could it be the culmination of magazines filled with glossy unrecognisable celebrity images, so much so we need to be told on adverts who we are admiring in the small print, the same faces selling us everything from lipstick to lash lengtheners, TV executives slipping any female talent out the side door the minute they reach a certain age and the seemingly unbreakable glass ceiling feminists have been going on about shattering since the sixties that have caused this collapse of retail trading.

Shirley Yanez, a lifecoach and TV stylist working with women over forty said “I meet and talk to women every single day who tell me they are sick and tired of being ignored by the High St and shopping for them is no longer fun. They feel all the clothes are the same and clearly targeted at younger customers. These women don’t want to shop online in isolation but there is just nothing cool and edgy for them that’s not too cheap, too young, too short or too tight.”

According to market research analyst firm Mintel, the clothing and footwear market for over 55 women alone is worth in excess of 5.7 billion pounds so why aren’t retailers tapping in. We have seen experiential marketing and retail come together successfully with brands like Disney targeted to the very young and super malls like Westfield using their vast square footage to stage event experiences to add value for the consumer whilst High Street fashion retailers appear stuck, fighting amongst themselves for that highly sought after 18-24 target market of yesteryear, many of whom are now unemployed with little disposable cash.

Yanez adds, “Until stores start understanding, engaging with and respecting this savvy but viable untapped revenue stream of middle aged women they are missing out on a very real market just waiting for the first one to go against the grain. Whoever does it will clean up.”

In days gone by perhaps a younger audience was easier to sell to; more susceptible to changing trends, clever marketing campaigns and peer pressure and less likely to be put off by poor quality workmanship and ethical business practise concerns. However it appears the “Age Of Innocence” is over and it’s time for retail executives to forget about House of Fraser and open up “House Of Mirth” with the emphasis on quality, style, coverage and a fun shopping experience.


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