Fashion Consumer Trends in 2020

Over the last couple weeks, TFC host Brandon Roe has been discussing 2020 consumer fashion trends on a number of radio shows across the country. In today’s conversation, he reveals some of the most important insights shared on those interviews.

Highlights:

  • How the constant noise online will continue to drive consumers towards real life experiences in 2020.
  • Thanks to the tech sector, 63% of consumers "expect" a new standard of service traditionally found just within the world of luxury. An important trend you need to consider in 2020.
  • How (and how not) to use consumer values to sell more to the most profitable consumer segments.
  • Stories from a hyper-competitive fashion segment: How to use "experiential retail" to fight back against the culture of discounting.
About Our Guest

Brandon Roe

Brandon Roe is an author and the host of The Fashion Consumer, a popular podcast that offers fresh ideas and insights into the ever-changing fashion consumer. With a rare skill set that brings together cutting-edge technology and consumer-centered marketing, he has worked with clients in eight countries and three languages over the past two decades.

Interview Transcript

Fashion Consumer Trends in 2020

Brandon: Over the last couple of weeks, a number of radio stations across the country have had me on to talk about consumer fashion trends in 2020. In today’s podcast, I’m going to share some of the insights that I gave on the radio.

 

But first, I’d like you to meet Kim. Kim is our Head of Research at The Fashion Consumer. You might not be aware, but behind the scenes we’re actually a consumer research firm specializing in the fashion business that works with private clients. We help find new opportunities within their own customer base but as well in the broader consumer market, especially when they’re looking at entering a new market. Naturally, this requires a lot of research, a lot of data to do it well, and Kim has an amazing gift for helping to find everything that we need to do a great job for our clients. Today, she plays the role of interviewer.

 

So let’s jump on in. 

 

Kim: From a consumer perspective, trends follow a predictable life cycle just like companies and products. 2020 seems to be a continuation of trends that have been built on, including convenience, personalization, and a return to the physical brick and mortar shopping experience. Brandon, how is the always-on nature of technology impacting the way we consume products?

Brandon: It's a very good question Kim. We definitely consume a lot more. When we were preparing for this topic, I pulled up a couple of stats from the EPA. In 1960 we were throwing away a curb average of 19 and a half pounds of clothing. In 2017, it was almost 103 pounds per person within the US. So within the space of one baby boomer lifetime, we've increased it five times. What is causing that? Definitely the arrival of fast fashion in the modern sense has contributed, but the constant, ever-increasing exposure to marketing messages has played a part.

The other way in which this has impacted the way we consume products has to do with the way we make buying decisions. We can, and we do, a lot more research. We do research on the product, on competing products, on the people behind the company, on the values of the company, and then what people say about the product or the people or the values. And for many consumers, some or all of these factors have become almost as much a part of the sale as the product itself.

Kim: Do you think the cancel culture has impacted buying trends? For example, ad blockers year-over-year since 2017 have stayed steady in Western Europe and the United States at around 26, 27%. Do you think that's had an influence?

Brandon: I think it definitely does and it's probably good for our listeners to actually define what the noise is. Like, how many ads are we seeing? A lot of this depends on a number of different factors like where we live, what our job is, what we do in our free time. Best estimates: the average office worker sees probably somewhere between 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements a day online and in real life as a combination. That can be anything from full ads to logos to other commercial messages.

And so we have these filtration systems like ad blockers, but we also have other filters. There's banner blindness or the inability to see what looks like an advertisement even if it's right in front of us. There's social media. We've got the AI behind it that is constantly filtering out for us messages it doesn't think that we would be interested in. But another filter is to seek out more real experiences in a way that online simply can't deliver.

Now we've got this retail apocalypse thing. I just did a bunch of media as Macy's announced that they were closing almost 30 stores in 2020. If you look at the numbers, 9,300 were announced in 2019. 9,300 closures so far. We, as of this recording, are a couple of weeks into 2020 and 1,400 have already been announced. But the interesting thing about this is that for each retailer that is closing stores, more than five retail chains are actually opening stores.

Why would they? Is it a case of that they just haven't learned their lesson? Or is it more likely that [brick and mortar] retail is the only method that can deliver an experience that hits all of the senses? It's something that online cannot copy. It's about the experience. The experience is the key. That's the key word in that sentence. And this is especially true of young people. So yes, in that way all the noise online is driving real shopping experiences.

Kim: Do you think we've come full circle? Do you think that the constant noise online has driven people back towards brick and mortar and real-life shopping experiences?

Brandon: I think for certain segments of the population it has definitely been the case.

Kim: Interesting. Are we still looking though for the easiest and most convenient way to shop? I can tell you that personally, while I go to grocery stores to get produce and things like that, I also frequently use a grocery delivery service because I have a young child. And the very idea of taking a tired, cranky four-year-old into the grocery store is a little overwhelming. Do you think that’s become an overall trend?

Brandon: When it comes to daily life, as you mentioned, absolutely. We're all time starved. None of us has enough time in the day and we're always looking for more convenience. So yes, when it comes to things like groceries or toilet paper, those sorts of things that we need but don't really want to spend time getting, it's a huge convenience. But when it comes to discretionary purchases, there is definitely a trend towards experience. It's not so much about getting the thing, it's about the experience of going through a buying process, which obviously is not a question of convenience.

If you want to see a perfect example in the real world of this, Lululemon opened a store in Chicago last year in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. It naturally sells all of their products plus a few unique items to that location. But it also goes above and beyond to deliver a unique experience separate to retail. It's got a fuel restaurant with the cold brew coffee and smoothies and Beyond Meat burgers. They have an area where they show how the product is made. There's yoga and meditation classes. There's a lounge area. It is something really more than a store. It's an experience and it is something that can become a critical part, a very important part, of the community.

Kim: Interestingly, I just read yesterday or the day before Barnes & Noble is doing a similar pivot where they're going to start serving alcohol.

Brandon: Really?

Kim: Yeah. And starting to try to make it into a date night kind of experience, which given Blockbuster, not, going along with technology and the new trends  –  I think that trying to save the big box bookstores, that might be the way to go.

Brandon: It's definitely a move in the right direction. I'm not sure people think of Barnes & Noble as a natural date night destination, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. It's on trend.

Kim: To pivot a little bit. How do consumers view brands that take stance on social or political issues? Your book, Why Fashion Brands Die, discusses the three pillars of sustainability and why brands should pay attention. Sustainability is not a new concept. Why should brands care now?

Brandon: Sustainability is a really interesting piece. it is something that everybody is talking about and it is something that has absolutely no real meaning whatsoever. Two people can have a conversation about sustainability and be having two different conversations. But yes, in the book we attempted, and this was something I learned from Dr. Anna Roncha who is at the London College of Fashion and she's defined it quite well, the different areas of it. It's definitely something worth paying attention to. In terms of consumers, to tie it to this piece on how consumers actually view brands that take stands on social and political issues like sustainability, it depends on the brand and it depends on the consumer. And the type of consumer a brand is servicing. Some consumers care, some consumers do not.

It can be very, very useful if you've got the right brand and right consumer. A perfect example of that is Colin Kaepernick. For our listeners who aren't familiar, he took a knee at the National Anthem. and after leaving the San Francisco 49ers was supposedly blackballed by the league. Nike supported him through this process. They were sponsors and they supported him as he went through this process and got a lot of flack as a result. Nike stock suffered short-term as people who weren't aligned with what he was standing for promised boycotts. Nike persisted and they endeared themselves to some core customers in a way that they hadn't done before. And their stock price eventually recovered. Then late last year they launched a collaboration with Kaepernick. And the whole line, the whole product, sold out in a couple of days. That's an example where taking a stand was very beneficial for a brand.

But it can also be risky if the values of the people behind the scenes, the investors, the owners, the managers, are different from that of its customers. SoulCycle is a recent example of one that got themselves in some hot water. The company itself is quite progressive. They do a lot with LGBT rights and tend to appeal to a more liberal-leaning urban customer base. Well, one of the investors, Stephen Ross, did a fundraiser for Trump last year and it drove a boycott. And if you look at some of their results since then, it definitely hurt the company. So it can be a competitive advantage, but it's something you have to be careful with.

Kim: What are some other things shoppers are going to leave looking for this year?

Brandon: Definitely some trends that we're talking about and we're following internally within The Fashion Consumer: personalization, the market of one, the expectation amongst mainstream consumers that brands within fashion will treat them as individuals when it comes to marketing and sales support and customer experience. Sustainability, as we've already referenced, is a very big conversation right now. It's going to be interesting to see how it continues to develop over 2020 and into the next couple of years.

And, of course, we have the retail apocalypse. The retail world is continuing to change faster than it perhaps ever has before. Old brands will either adapt or they will die. New ones will take their place because the end of the day, consumers are going to keep on consuming. How and where they do it will change.

Kim:  It's going to be an interesting next few years for sure.

Brandon: Absolutely.

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