A few statistics on 40+ fashion shoppers

Alexis Bittar knows who the customer for his jewellery is…

Last year was a better year for the 40plus female, we actually appeared to exist in terms of marketing. I know we’ve still got a long way to go, but marketeers are understanding that maybe not every female is under 25 and those that are older might buy more product if they see women who look a bit more like themselves looking good in it. So hats off to Alexis Bittar (above) Lanvin, American Apparel, Illamasqua and the like who used older models in their ad campaigns, we wrote about it here.

But I’m still waiting for retailers to catch on. Yes we’ve had Mary and Twiggy, but when you think of how much money the 40 plus market is worth, it’s small fry and it’s still challenging to find nice clothes for our age group compared to the abundance of clothes showered on the younger markets.

So when you are next needing to rant about how cross you are about the lack of clothes targeted at our age group, we thought you’d like a few statistics to arm yourself with. Try them on the next designer/brand/retailer that says ‘age is about attitude’ in response to your question on where the dresses with sleeves are.

We are numerous

According to Mintel’s Women’s Fashion Lifestyles 2012, by 2016 there will be 10 million women, one in three of the female population, who will be aged over 55 years old. And Mintel’s research claims we feel overlooked by fashion retailers.

Yep, we’re on the increase, statistically speaking and those cute 15-24 year old girls you can sell anything to? Declining (in market share, and that’s before we talk about if they have a paying job at the end of their university degree to go to). When you think that the womenswear market will be worth £23.2 billion (according to Mintel) by 2016, that’s a lot of money our market has to potentially spend on clothes…if only we could find some.

We are pretty hot at the Internet

At a recent Drapers Breakfast I attended, I discovered that an omnichannel survey of UK consumers revealed that although 69% of all customers make their purchases in store, 36% of over 55 year olds make ALL of their purchases online, compared to only 16% of 24-34 year olds. Who said the young owned the internet?

I suspect it’s because by 55 many of us have given up with the rubbish service, youth-orientated shopping environments and expensive parking fines (you can count up a lot of parking tickets by the time you are 55, or is that just me?) and prefer the comfort of our sofas when buying things. Who can blame us? When was the last time you went into a fashion store and were served by someone the same age or older than you?

And we are the customer everyone wants

At the World Retail Congress last September, I heard the inspiring Laura Wade Gery, M&S’s e-commerce sales director explain that M&S’s biggest online usage is from the 45-55 year old market. According to Laura we are the company’s dream customer, particularly the affluent 55-65 year old ‘elegant suburbanite’ (Laura’s words, not mine). And those figures are just the people that actually found something to buy. I know plenty of women who search the M&S website and can’t find anything to purchase…how much higher would that figure be if there WAS great product available for our market? Think on that, any brands and retailers looking at dismal retail figures.

Let’s remember which retailer had a fabulous Christmas (‘John Lewis sales up 14.8% in pre-Christmas run-up’ according to Reuters ) and who its target market is? Oh yes. Us.

But we still love researching our buys In store

From the Drapers Omnichannel research, it appears that the 45 year olds and over are the ones who most want to hang about stores researching our product buys. 50% of all 55 year old questioned and 45% of all 45-54 year olds said they preferred to research fashion and shoes in store rather than online.  All those youngsters prefer researching online, with only 38% of 18-24 year olds doing their serious product researching in store.

So the next time you are ignored or looked down on by some intolerant young person assuming you know nothing about current trends and are OLD so therefore don’t actually know what fashion is, just remember, we might be keeping the high street store alive. So you could suggest they be a bit nicer to us and maybe give us comfortable changing rooms and sofas to sit and hang out on.

Let’s hope that by the end of 2013, we are recommending fabulous new ranges of well priced clothes we can’t stop ourselves buying. Perhaps we’ll be so busy having fun in stores getting styling and product advice from staff that really understand our needs we’ll be too busy to blog! What do you reckon, readers?



  • j ballard says:

    Don’t want my first comment of 2013 to be negative but…oh dear ladies once again you have hit the nail on the (retailers) head again! 50 plus and faced with John Lewis or Topshop..Too poor for one and too fat for the other! A funky/classic section in Topshop would be good, similar to the maternity range they do. 1 or 2 lovely outfits every few weeks for us oldies! Sizing is the biggy here. Whilst l will go searching in any shop for clothes regardless of agerange (l use my lovely girls as decoys) the problem is that the pretty dress that l know will work with coloured tights, leggings, jeans and a cardy combo will np longer go round my expanding middle age waistline! Despite the gym, diets and starvation… which leaves me with skinny chicken legs but still a nasty middle! Designers note (yes including my son’s girlfriend.. fashion graduate who has had to find work in Kuwait.. l mean you) take note!

  • Amanda says:

    I meant to put in something about size as well JB, size is crucial -retailers must get used to making clothes for women above a size 12….it’s just crazy how they don’t. Ax

  • Elaine says:

    Well said ladies. And the noise…..walked into Urban Outfitters and then straight back out again. The music was deafening.

    I wonder are almost all dresses sleeveless because they use so much less fabric and are therefore cheaper to make? I think they look silly and inappropriate in winter, never mind impractical.

  • Amanda says:

    perhaps retailers should think about merchandising cardigans next to sleeveless dresses? Totes agree about the noise too! Although quite happy to listen to loud music if the music is right! (Fleetwood Mac anyone?) A

  • Su Mason says:

    Such a lot of sound points in your article. Particularly like M&S’s e-commerce director’s remark about 55-65 year old ‘elegant suburbanite’. There are so many of us – post WW Ii baby boom. Remember? But do I buy from M & S? No, not even my knickers!

  • Sue says:

    I’m not sure.I feel a bit conflicted in that I really, really don’t want to feel targetted and reminded that I’m 48 too often.I have never had a problem finding clothes to wear that I like but then I’m not a very adventurous dresser and stick to what I know suits me (and the brands). I can see that it would be different if I changed shape.And yes, almost all of my clothes shopping is done online, which is fine by me. I certainly don’t want to go into somewhere pitch black with half naked assistants even if the clothes were appropriate. A while ago, Toast also used some older models in their brochures and they looked great.

  • amanda says:

    Sue- totes agree that we don’t want to be grouped into the ‘older’ bracket, but it’s mostly because what retailers think is ‘older’ is our mothers generation. We are so so different, because we grew up with this strong sense of high street fashion and style, some of us even think we invented the concept of trends! so we don’t want to stop being fashionable, modern and stylish. A

  • Wonderful post! I wrote on the same topic a few days ago. One of the things I suggested was using Pinterest as an over 40/50 venue to get our faces/bodies out there. It is in our control we just need to yell louder with our $$$

  • amanda says:

    Excellent idea Tammy, we like that! A

  • Jo says:

    Actually I find the whole idea of the Mary Portas range a bit of a turn-off, like I don’t know how to dress myself. Although I’m 54, and therefore older than her target customer, I wouldn’t shop there as I think the clothes are too old for me. I don’t want clothes targeted at my age, I want to wear 44 year old’s clothes! (Actually one of my favourite outfits is my tweed shorts from Gap with black opaques and black mock-croc patent boots from Hobbs. Although I don’t buy clothes in Hobbs as I think they are a bit frumpy.)
    I also don’t really want to be served by people my age unless they are really stylish. I like Jigsaw, the girls (women) there are all ages and are, to my eye, stylish. I know it’s not ‘fashion’ but I live in the country and anything too ‘fashion’ makes me feel out of place. Bits of Toast can be good but I think you have to be careful or it can make an older person look grannyish. Same with some of Brora’s handknits type styles.
    I like Zara and Primark when you can pick out the gems from the dross. I don’t do Topshop because of the music and also I think it is quite expensive and badly made with poor quality fabric. Ditto Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie although I really really love the way Anthropologie merchandise.

  • Melissa says:

    I wonder if maybe the industry takes the easy way out by focusing on very young women. They are generally less concerned about qaulity and willing to blindly follow trends on a regular basis. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to make cheap, copy-cat clothes.

  • Rebecca says:

    I’ve been working on a major research project demonstrating the power and value of 40+ women for the last year or so (and continuing to do so this year) The findings have been such an eye opener for media planners and retailers alike and I hope have gone some way to both addressing the numerous myths held [often by younger generations] and generating some excitement about the potential of this powerful group of women. The one negative area which our respondents talk about time and time again is fashion – or rather SHOPPING for fashion. So while I love the idea of us 40+ women potentially keeping the high street alive, there is a long way to go to improving the experience of shopping for, and importantly, buying fashion in-store.

  • Amanda says:

    Jo, agree with all your quality points, and one thing that also makes me cross is that the 40plus are all grouped into one, as if we’ll all like the same thing as we get older. Bonkers. Melissa I think you are right, it’s often the easiest way out and Rebecca, let us know when you’ve completed the research, it would be really interesting to hear what the results are. I could go on forever about store environments, don’t get me started….A

  • Marianne says:

    Great article.

  • Cvs Survey says:

    Thanks for sharing

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