Retailers just don’t seem to get it right. Trying to target this elusive
markets is like trying to catch an eel in muddy waters: middle-age women who don’t want to dress like middle-age women. Remember Gap’s short-lived and ill-conceived Forth
Here’s the deal…middle age women have major spending power and they view themselves as youthful. See the problem?
There are roughly 40 million baby-boomer
women, born between 1946 and 1964 and they don’t want to shop in stores labeled for mature women.
But several retailers are plunging head first into the shallow waters. Macy’s
Inc.’s Bloomingdale’s chain is rolling out a new department called
Quotation, which sells casual clothes aimed at 35- to 50-year-old
urbane moms and professional women. The idea is that by pitching to
boomers as well as younger women, Quotation will have a hip vibe that
will appeal to a broad cross section. Each department is positioned
next to contemporary labels like Juicy Couture, which are favored by
women in their 20s, and has a diverse range of separates.
Ann Taylor is also preparing to target this market
with a new retail concept it will launch next fall. And the 615-store
Chico’s chain, which had a cult following among suburban women but has
stumbled lately, is trying to draw more shoppers in their 30s and 40s
with new items like embroidered jeans and fitted jackets (say it isn’t so! We hate Chico’s).
Clothing purchases by women over 35 accounted for nearly half of
the $102.7 billion in women’s clothing purchases in the 12 months ended
Aug. 31, according to estimates by market researcher NPD Group. But the fashion industry has struggled to appeal to
such a broad consumer group, which ranges from traditional types who
prefer flat shoes and ankle-length skirts to women who resemble
characters from "Desperate Housewives."
Michael Fink, women’s fashion director at Saks Fifth
Avenue, says it’s difficult for older women to figure out what’s age
appropriate, especially given the dizzying array of fashion brands
available at every price level. "I am even overwhelmed when I go to the
selling floor," he says.
Saks, whose average customer is 48 years old, is
trying to help by highlighting in its marketing campaigns specific
trends that can be worn by women of all ages each season. Two of the
strongest sellers currently are dresses — a one-zip solution — and
what Mr. Fink calls "sexy tops" that can be worn by women of every age.
Read "The Boomer Balancing Act" by Teri Agins at the WSJSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40