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UK Insights

The 90’s are back

Jonathan Firth

Business Unit Director, Lifestyle

Shoppers 05.08.2016 / 14:00

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Retailers look to nostalgia to boost market decline

Research from Kantar Worldpanel shows 90’s trends returning to high street retailers as stores create offerings that hark back to the days of jelly sandals, plastic chokers and troll dolls.

The fashion market in Great Britain has moved into decline for the first time in six years. Looking to defeat growing uncertainty in consumer confidence, the high street is drawing on nostalgia. 

For 25-34 year olds who lived through and embraced the trends in the 90s, the wave relates back to a worry free time of innocence when life wasn’t as bleak. According to The Futures Company, a Kantar company, these millennials known as ‘latecomers’ have less money and have experienced bigger challenges than the generation that went before. The 25 -34 year olds, and the Under 25s are embracing the trend with the spend for under 25’s growing at 4% year on year and 25-34’s growing at 1.2% – impressive in a market that is in decline of -0.7% overall.

As the 90’s trend becomes a staple on the high street, stores are embracing the fashion as well as the culture, fusing their marketing strategies with the craze of Pokémon Go. Retailers are using lures, which entice Pokemon to show themselves in that area, in hope that the mobile app craze will translate into retail sales as players try to net Pikachu and friends whilst in-store.

Sports brands are the big winners benefitting from the 90’s return and rise in athleisure. The comeback of the 90’s athletic trends roared life back into Adidas, growing the brand 25% year on year. This accelerated growth stems from the renewed popularity of Adidas Gazelle trainers, the iconic tri-striped casual trainer.

It is not only sportswear brands who are befitting from the youth trend, but also more iconic labels like Calvin Klein and Skechers, each big in the 90’s. Known for their racy ads with Kate Moss, Calvin Klein brought back their iconic black and white campaigns and switched out Moss for the poster kids of the selfie generation - Kendal Jenner and Justin Bieber. From last year, the brand grew 25%, yet among under 25’s Calvin Klein grew a whopping 83%, driven by lingerie.

Skechers grew throughout 2015 and was one of the top performing trainer brands of the year. Despite targeting young girls, the brand grew 19% among 55+ year olds attracted to the promise of comfortable everyday trainers. This age group now accounts for 40% of the brand’s sales.

Urban Outfitters is reviving iconic 90’s brands and trends for its latest collections and MAC has teamed up with Troll Dolls for its new makeup release this summer. Hoping to capitalise on the first real fashion trend since the recession driven Normcore, the high street is betting big that shoppers will buy into the nostalgic factor.



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While specific brands may be benefitting from the trend, the decline in the fashion market continues to be a worry for retailers who are relying on the 90’s style product mix to entice younger shoppers back into stores more frequently. There is a fear that alienating both older and younger consumers could present a secondary challenge.

For retailers like Asos this could become a reality since 82% of the brand’s sales are own label. While own label product at Asos is growing at 10% year on year, performance is a different story among under 25s. Accounting for 40% of Asos’s sales, under 25s are declining at -4.5% in own label sales. In comparison, 25-34 year olds are growing 42% YoY, while own label sales are trailing behind, growing at 27%. For retailers relying on the under 35 year olds, product mix and price margins on branded items will become important, so as not to be left over with hoards of own label track bottoms and patched denim at the end of the season.

The UK is predominantly an own label market; there is a place for branded clothes but any changes in branded versus own label mix need to be small and subtle. Rushing to stock brands that have limited long term appeal could only serve to increase the level of discount that needs to be offered to clear stock.

Source : Kantar Worldpanel

Editor's Notes

To interview Jonathan Firth, or for more information, please contact us. Photo: ASOS

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