Understanding what women want – Commentary – clothing – Brief Article – Column
Understanding women’s apparel preferences in the workplace has baffled many manufacturers for years. Initially, many logowear suppliers modified popular men’s styles, and thought these new “ladies-specific” styles would cover all ladies’ needs. However, as women continue to have a much stronger voice within corporate America, suppliers cannot ignore the growing demand for additional styles that are specifically designed for women. Outer Banks and Hanes, leading apparel brands in the embellishable industry, have identified practical solutions to women’s requests by creating alternatives that offer women more options and have the same versatility that men have with their polo.
To understand the unique apparel needs of women, Outer Banks conducted focus groups of women who currently wear and purchase polo shirts for themselves and their families. One of the most insightful findings about what women wear, was that women have an average of nine sport shirts in their closets, compared to the 17 found in men’s closets. Women wear no more than three to four of them in a month’s time. Another key lesson is that women are less likely to wear a polo shirt with a promotional logo, unless it’s required in a work setting. However, women will wear a promotional logoed shirt more often if the shirt has some feminine styling and the logo is subtler.
Another important finding in the focus groups was what women look for when purchasing shirts.
Women look for style, fit, color, and brand, in that order. In contrast, the primary purchase driver for men is comfort. This finding reinforces what Outer Banks and Hanes have thought for a few years. Women want more style options in their logowear shirts. This is difficult for our industry to accept, as emphasis on reducing inventory SKU count by blank apparel suppliers continues. In addition, the women s market still represents a small part of the total apparel sales.
Yet, with women representing over half of the workforce and the women’s market continuing to grow at a pace much faster than the industry, sales of women’s apparel is an opportunity that cannot be ignored.
Women want more of their own alternatives to the typical men’s fashioned polo shirt. The dilemma is balancing the coordination of men’s and women’s promotional apparel programs while offering enough women’s style choices. Outer Banks and Hanes offer solutions in coordinating men’s and women’s styles that give men the traditional polo and women a matching, versatile shirt with feminine style.
As women work more hours, they are continually pressed for time. Versatile clothing options can help women simplify their lives and offer them some work/life balance. As organizations supply promotional apparel to their employees or volunteers in order to promote and advertise their company and products, they need to consider the alternatives designed specifically for women. To make sure that companies get the most out of their promotional shirts and that the shirts will be worn by all their employees, it is important to find women’s shirts that women want to wear — shirts that are stylish, fit them and coordinate easily with many outfits. Additionally, the shirts will be worn more often if they are styled to be worn across seasons, such as layered under jackets and sweaters in colder weather.
Finally, women want and demand quality. They want shirts that continue to look good and fit well, even after several washings. Women want shirts that are comfortable, stylish, and dependable. Although it sounds like an impossible demand, there are companies in our industry that offer innovative women’s apparel that meets all the needs.
Outer Banks and Hanes have been leading brands in creating styles specific for ladies. Both are committed to bringing women the fit and versatility that they demand.
For 2002 Outer Banks has created three new shirt styles for women that are outside the typical polo shirt and a ladies’ addition to the outerwear line. Also look for the introduction of three softer colors, designed to give women lighter options. Hanes offers a women’s Basket Weave tee and Cotton Pique sport shirt that are styled to fit women and that coordinate with men’s sport shirts.
Outer Banks and Hanes remain committed to bringing businesswomen the best alternatives in their pursuit of stylish, professional apparel.
Vickie Lents is the Marketing Director for Hanes Printables. Rachel Newman is Marketing Manager for Outer Banks. Hanes Printables and Outer Banks are both divisions of the Sara Lee Corp.
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