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Women's Attitudes Towards Work Attire - US - December 2009

As the economy struggles to stabilize near the end of 2009, many apparel retailers are facing some four to six consecutive quarters of slumping sales. Strict budgeting forced many to curb spending on non-essential items, which severely cut into repertoire purchases. This consumer culling led to stripped-down shopping in most markets, but the apparel industry faced a landscape where “replacement purchases” became the new normal and wardrobe expansion would have to be delayed.

Morning talk shows quickly devoted segments to the instruction of how to turn a “fashionista” into a practical “frugalista” by creating the essential list of what the industry considered “must have” wardrobe staples. The suggested items were all quite sensible, classic and easily worn at the office, which should have made acquisition a cinch. If women suspended purchases even for the workplace; what would bring them back to the stores?

Mintel explores how women view their work wardrobe and how they shop for professional vs. social attire. This report also details the type of footwear and accessories women currently wear as part of their working attire and how they describe their style preferences. Other key findings of Women’s Attitudes Towards Work Attire include:

  • How important brands are when shopping for clothes
  • Whether women separate work attire from social attire
  • Which retailers they choose for work clothes and where they shop for their “other” clothes
  • Self-described style preferences
  • Spending habits for particular types of clothing; when to bargain hunt and when to go upscale
  • Whether they like their work clothes enough to wear for social occasions
  • What the dress code is at their workplace: strict business, business casual, casual or uniform
  • What kind of footwear they choose to wear to work
  • Which accessories they usually include in their work ensemble

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

      • What you need to know
        • Definition
          • Data sources
            • Consumer survey data
              • Advertising creative
                • Abbreviations and terms
                  • Abbreviations
                    • Terms
                    • Executive Summary

                      • An economy in turmoil and an ailing apparel industry set the stage
                        • Unemployment and casual attire depress sales
                          • What women want
                            • What are women wearing to work?
                              • Do you accessorize?
                                • What qualities do women want in work clothes?
                                  • Separating work from social wardrobe
                                  • Insights and Opportunities

                                    • Expanding plus-size offerings
                                      • Moms-to-be need work attire too
                                        • Figure 1: Employment status of first-time moms, 1961-65 vs. 2001-03
                                      • Good publicity can’t hurt
                                      • Inspire Insights

                                          • The many needs of female shoppers
                                            • What we’ve seen
                                              • Escapism
                                                • You are in control
                                                  • Handbags and shoes always fit
                                                  • Market Background

                                                    • A majority of consumers continue to tighten their belts
                                                      • Figure 2: Year-over-year budgeting trends, by gender, July 2009
                                                    • Economy piled on to retailers’ woes
                                                      • Availability of inexpensive imports pits value against quality
                                                        • Business casual backlash
                                                          • Unemployment trends have dual impact on market
                                                            • Figure 3: U.S. national unemployment rate, January 2007-August 2009*
                                                            • Figure 4: U.S. national unemployment rate, August-October 2009
                                                        • Retail Channels

                                                          • Where do women shop?
                                                            • Figure 5: Stores shopped by women, by household income, July 2009
                                                            • Figure 6: Stores shopped by women, by age, July 2009
                                                          • Specialty retailers
                                                            • Specialty apparel store sales in decline
                                                              • Figure 7: Estimates of retail sales, by kind of business, 2004-08
                                                              • Figure 8: Indexed estimates of retail sales, by kind of business, 2004-08
                                                            • Charming Shoppes
                                                              • Ann Taylor—Ann Taylor and LOFT
                                                                • Chico’s and White House/Black Market
                                                                  • Talbots
                                                                    • Dress Barn, Inc. dressbarn and maurices
                                                                      • New York & Company
                                                                        • Coldwater Creek
                                                                          • Sales of selected women’s apparel retailers
                                                                            • Figure 9: Sales of selected women’s apparel specialty retailers, 2007-09
                                                                          • Other specialty retailers
                                                                            • Banana Republic
                                                                              • J. Crew
                                                                                • Spiegel
                                                                                  • Department stores
                                                                                    • Conventional department stores continue to lose out to discounters
                                                                                      • Figure 10: Estimates of department store sales, by type, 2004-08
                                                                                    • T.J. Maxx/Marshalls and other discount stores receive a recession-induced boost
                                                                                      • Figure 11: T.J. Maxx Buyer TV ad, 2009
                                                                                    • Kohl’s
                                                                                      • Figure 12: Kohl’s women in salon TV ad, 2009
                                                                                    • Liz Claiborne—a specialty store and department store brand
                                                                                    • What Are Women Wearing to Work?

                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                        • What women wear to work
                                                                                          • Figure 13: What women are wearing to work, by age, August 2009
                                                                                        • Part-time workers tend to be more casual
                                                                                          • Figure 14: What women are wearing to work, by employment status, August 2009
                                                                                        • HH income less than $75K like to keep their looks simple
                                                                                          • Figure 15: Accessories used to complete work looks, by household income, August 2009
                                                                                          • Figure 16: DSW Red Stiletto TV ad, 2009
                                                                                        • Younger women more likely to embellish
                                                                                          • Figure 17: Accessories used to complete work looks, by age, August 2009
                                                                                        • Differences appear in apparel items purchased by age
                                                                                          • Figure 18: Incidence of buying selected women’s apparel/accessories in the last 12 months, by age, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                        • Working or not, only about one in 10 women bought a suit in the last year
                                                                                          • Figure 19: Incidence of buying selected women’s apparel/accessories in the last 12 months, by employment status, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                        • Younger women willing to carry two pair of shoes for style
                                                                                          • Figure 20: Type of shoes worn to work, by age, August 2009
                                                                                        • Younger women more likely to dislike their work clothes
                                                                                          • Figure 21: Whether work and other clothes are separated, by age, August 2009
                                                                                        • Part-time workers keep one wardrobe, while full-timers keep work clothes separate
                                                                                          • Figure 22: Whether work and other clothes are separated, by employment status, August 2009
                                                                                      • Attitudes and Behaviors

                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                          • Older women least likely to shop discounters for work clothes
                                                                                            • Figure 23: Where women shop for work clothes, by age, August 2009
                                                                                          • Regardless of income, women want a deal
                                                                                            • Figure 24: Where women shop for work clothes, by household income, August 2009
                                                                                          • Women more likely than men to look for bargains on clothing
                                                                                            • Figure 25: Clothing shopping budgeting behavior, by gender, July 2009
                                                                                          • Criteria for choosing clothes become more practical with age
                                                                                            • Figure 26: Criteria of importance when choosing work clothes, by age, August 2009
                                                                                          • Retailers need to offer similar options at a range of price points
                                                                                            • Figure 27: Criteria of importance when choosing work clothes, by household income, August 2009
                                                                                          • Younger women want more choices and better choices
                                                                                            • Figure 28: Attitudes and behaviors regarding buying work clothes, by age, August 2009
                                                                                          • Quality worth the higher cost to those who can afford it
                                                                                            • Figure 29: Attitudes and behaviors regarding buying work clothes, by household income, August 2009
                                                                                          • Less passion for fashion among 35+
                                                                                            • Figure 30: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothes, by age, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                          • Two out of three aged 55+ define their style as conservative
                                                                                              • Figure 31: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothes, by age, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                            • Seasonal changes mean more casual styles for 18-34s
                                                                                              • Figure 32: Whether work wardrobe changes with seasons, by age, August 2009
                                                                                          • Race and Hispanic Origin

                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                              • Black women favor more traditional work attire
                                                                                                • Figure 33: Incidence of buying selected women’s apparel/accessories in the last 12 months, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                                • Figure 34: Trended incidence of buying a women’s suit in the last 12 months, by race/Hispanic origin, June 2002-March 2009
                                                                                              • Accessorizing less of a priority for white women
                                                                                                • Figure 35: Accessories used to complete work looks, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                              • Hispanic working women value designer labels
                                                                                                • Figure 36: Criteria of importance when choosing work clothes, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                              • Designer labels are an image boost
                                                                                                • Figure 37: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothing brands, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                              • Black women more likely to go out on a fashion limb
                                                                                                • Figure 38: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothes, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                                • Figure 39: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothes, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2008-March 2009
                                                                                            • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                • Casual attirers
                                                                                                  • Same shoppers
                                                                                                    • Dress coders
                                                                                                      • Characteristic tables
                                                                                                        • Figure 40: Working women wardrobe clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 41: What women are wearing to work, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 42: Presence of dress code, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 43: Whether work wardrobe changes with seasons, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 44: Type of shoes worn to work, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 45: Whether work and other clothes are separated, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 46: Attitudes and behaviors regarding clothes, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 47: Criteria of importance when choosing work clothes, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 48: Accessories used to complete work looks, by working women clusters, August 2009
                                                                                                      • Demographic tables
                                                                                                        • Figure 49: Working women clusters, by age group, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 50: Working women clusters, by income group, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 51: Working women clusters, by race, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 52: Working women clusters, by Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 53: Working women clusters, by education group, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Figure 54: Working women clusters, by employment group, August 2009
                                                                                                      • Cluster methodology
                                                                                                      • Appendix: Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                        • What women wear to work
                                                                                                          • Figure 55: What women are wearing to work, by household income, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Whether workplace has dress code
                                                                                                          • Figure 56: Whether workplace has dress code, by selected demographics, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Seasonal wardrobe changes
                                                                                                          • Figure 57: Whether work wardrobe changes with seasons, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                                          • Figure 58: Whether work wardrobe changes with seasons, by employment status, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Type of shoes worn to work
                                                                                                          • Figure 59: Type of shoes worn to work, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Where work clothes are bought
                                                                                                          • Figure 60: Where women shop for work clothes, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                                        • Considerations in the choosing process
                                                                                                          • Figure 61: Attitudes and behaviors regarding buying work clothes, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2009
                                                                                                      • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                                        Companies Covered

                                                                                                        • American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
                                                                                                        • American Apparel Producers Network
                                                                                                        • AnnTaylor Inc
                                                                                                        • Apparel Search Company
                                                                                                        • Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Co.
                                                                                                        • Coldwater Creek Inc
                                                                                                        • Greenfield Online
                                                                                                        • International Council of Shopping Centres
                                                                                                        • J C Penney Company, Inc
                                                                                                        • J. Crew Group, Inc
                                                                                                        • Kmart Corporation
                                                                                                        • Liz Claiborne Inc
                                                                                                        • Macy's, Inc.
                                                                                                        • National Retail Federation (NRF)
                                                                                                        • New York & Company Inc.
                                                                                                        • Nordstrom
                                                                                                        • The Dress Barn, Inc
                                                                                                        • The TJX Companies
                                                                                                        • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
                                                                                                        • Urban Outfitters
                                                                                                        • Walmart Stores (USA)

                                                                                                        Women's Attitudes Towards Work Attire - US - December 2009

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