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The 90ís have returned with a vengeance


While the 90’s has returned with a vengeance on the runways for the past two years, the trend has splashed onto the high street as stores hop on the late 90’s bandwagon to create offerings that harken back to the days of jelly sandals, plastic chokers and troll dolls. 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. The latest Kantar Worldpanel data analyses how the trend has affected brands and stores alike and why it is has soared in popularity.

Incurring shopper losses and frequency losses, the fashion market in Great Britain has moved into decline for the first time in six years. Compounded with complaints of the effect bad weather has had on sales and a growing uncertainty in consumer confidence, the market is certainly in for a bumpy ride post-Brexit. So how does a trend full of frivolity, colour and fun becoming a staple on the high street in times like these? One word, nostalgia.

For 25-34 year olds who lived through and embraced the trends in the 90s, the wave harkens back to a worry free time of innocence when life wasn’t as bleak. The 90’s is an escape for these young shoppers to relive their youth and bury their head in the sand away from reality. According to a study by The Guardian, millennials will be the first generation that will make less money than their parents’ generation.

On the flipside, Under 25s are embracing it as a trend they see as their own Peter Pan-esque celebration of youth culture. The trend does seem to be working on these two age groups, as both are overperforming against the market. Spend for Under 25’s is growing at 4% year on year while spend among 25-34’s is growing at 1.2%, which is impressive in a market that is in decline of -0.7% overall.

Consumer Insight Director of Fashion at Kantar Worldpanel, Glen Tooke says, “Younger consumers are starting to return to the market and in the current climate retailers are doing all they can to cater for the needs of this customer group. Care does however need to be taken that in the battle to win these groups’ spend, the needs of older, more loyal and often less fickle consumers is not ignored.”

So who is benefitting from the return of the 90’s wave? The big winners are the sports brands, whose logoed clothing and trainers were a staple of the 90’s. Compounded with the rise in athleisure and sport brands lucked out with a winning formula. 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 that is as recognisable as a pair of Air Jordans.

It is not only sportswear brands who are befitting from the youth trend, but also more iconic labels like Calvin Klein and Skechers who each owned their own respective aspects of the 90’s trend. 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.

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. A secondary challenge here is that it is well documented that more customers equals more sales, could jumping on this bandwagon too much lead to alienating both older and younger consumers. The big question, however, is this: if consumer confidence falls will the 90’s trend become unnecessary extras that shoppers will cut back on in a post-Brexit economy?

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.
Tooke adds, “The UK is predominantly an own label market; there is a place for branded 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.”

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. Using lures, which entice Pokemon to show themselves in that area, retailers are hoping that the mobile app craze will translate into retail sales as players try to net Pikachu and friends. With retailers hoping to re-engage shoppers and “Catch em’ all,” turning stores into Pokémon playgrounds is evidence that not only the 90’s are back, but retailers are pulling out all of the stops to avoid further sales losses as economic uncertainty looms ahead. It isn’t just under 35s who are craving a return to the 90s, as retailers are also nostalgic for more prosperous times.

The 90ís have returned with a vengeance


Jonathan Firth

Business Unit Director, Lifestyle


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