Despite the current economic situation, Italian consumers' dedication to personal style, love of clothes shopping, and affinity for well-made clothing remains strong. While the Italian economy grew at a moderate pace in 2011 (+0.4%), real GDP growth is projected to decline 1.7% in 2012, and real clothing expenditures are projected to decline 2% from €56.9 billion to €55.2 billion in 2012 (Euromonitor International). According to the 2012 Global Lifestyle Monitor Survey, the austere economic situation in Italy has influenced consumers to shop more for clothing on sale, decrease impulse purchases, and to sacrifice some clothing quality for a better price. However, apparel-loving Italian shoppers continue to prioritize spending on their wardrobe and to prefer cotton clothing to meet their high quality expectations.
To satisfy their desire for fashionable clothing on tighter budgets, Italian consumers have adopted more strategic shopping behaviors. In 2012, 87% of Italian consumers said they shop for clothing on sale, up significantly from 76% in 2008. More Italian consumers also report adopting habits such as wearing one outfit throughout the day and taking more time to plan purchases. Although the majority of Italian consumers (63%) continue to say they are willing to pay more for better quality clothing, that commitment has weakened from 74% in 2008. Italian consumers continue to demonstrate their desire to find the best quality clothing, as the percentage of Italian consumers who always or usually check fiber content labels has risen significantly from 59% in 2008 to 69% in 2010 to 80% in 2012. The increase in fiber label checking is based on the Italian consumer's need to identify quality, which 63% associate with natural fibers like cotton.
The Italian retail apparel market remains highly fragmented compared to the German and UK markets, with unorganized retail channels such as independent stores and street markets still accounting for 34% of where Italian consumers shop for most their clothing. Over the past several years, the unorganized retail share of the apparel market has declined from 48% in 2008, as Italian consumers have shifted to more organized retailers like specialty and chain stores.
The increase in popularity of organized retailers is primarily driven by younger Italian shoppers. Selection and variety are what drives Italians to shop at their favorite stores, especially for consumers who shop at chain stores. Independent store shoppers are more likely to value customer service, while specialty store shoppers are more likely to appreciate clothing styles and designs.
Denim apparel, especially denim jeans, is a fashion favorite and a staple in consumer wardrobes around the world. The majority of Italian consumers (64%) say they love or enjoy wearing denim, which has held steady over the past few years. Younger consumers (ages 15–34) are significantly more likely than older consumers (ages 35–54) to say that they love or enjoy denim (78% and 52% respectively). On average, Italian consumers report owning about 13 denim garments; younger consumers own about 15 garments, and older consumers have 11. The denim wardrobe of the younger Italian consumer is more diverse, as they dedicate less of their wardrobe to jeans (only 46% compared to 54% for older consumers). Younger consumers' wardrobes are more dedicated to denim shirts and shorts compared to their older counterparts.
Italian survey respondents describe cotton apparel using the
As in past years, quality dominates as the primary factor influencing Italian consumers' clothing purchase decisions, followed closely by fiber content (96%), price (95%), performance features (93%), and environmental friendliness (89%). Italian consumers are the most fiber-conscious, as more than nine out of 10 (96%) say it is important to know the fiber content of clothing before purchasing. Fiber content is not only an indicator of quality to Italian consumers but also of fashion, as three-fourths say they would rather know the fiber content of a garment over the brand name. Even in tough economic times, 73% of Italian consumers say they would be willing to pay more for a better-quality garment, and eight out of 10 Italian consumers are willing to pay a premium for natural fibers, like cotton, because they recognize that cotton will meet their durability and quality expectations.
Affinity for cotton is very strong in Italy; 86% of consumers prefer cotton for the clothing they wear the most. Most Italian consumers look for cotton, especially when they are seeking high-quality apparel items. However, more than half of Italian consumers say that their clothing does not last as long as it has in the past and have noticed cotton being substituted for other fibers. More than seven out of 10 Italian consumers are bothered by cotton being substituted by other fibers in dress shirts (84%), t-shirts (83%), jeans (82%), dresses (78%), and casual pants (74%). As some of the most selective evaluators of clothing quality, Italians will likely continue to seek cotton clothing to satisfy their fashion and high apparel standards.
ABOUT THIS ISSUE
This issue is part of a special series of Supply Chain Insights reporting results from the Global Lifestyle Monitor survey, a biennial consumer research study sponsored by Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated. In the 2012 survey, 5,000 consumers (approximately 500 in each of the 10 countries surveyed) were surveyed via telephone, face-to-face interviews, and online. Respondents were male and female, aged 15 to 54. The ten countries included in the 2012 survey were Brazil, China, Colombia, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.