Size matters across culture!

39229787_090d930d63_1 [image courtesy 3water]

There’s a post today on BrandNoise that gave me food for thought. They talk about the emergence of a brand of women’s clothing in China [Miiow] that intends to fill a percieved niche between haute couture such as Shanghai Tang and those such as Giordano and Esprit, which they refer to as ‘too basic for sophisticated shoppers’. The quote is from this AdAge article they’ve linked to but I can’t access since I’m not a subscriber.

The rationale given for the emergence of these local brands is size availability. As in the fact [surprise surprise] Asian women are for the most part too petite to find clothing that fits them in the selections available through the majority of international retailers. Requoting from the Adage article,

"Chinese women aren’t normally able to buy ready-to-wear clothes made
for the European and US markets because they tend to be shorter,
slimmer and less curvy than Western women. And Hong Kong-based brands
with retail presences in China, such as Giordano and Esprit, are too basic for the country’s sophisticated shoppers.

Hoping to leap into the gap is Maoren Group,
a $100 million Wuhan-based underwear manufacturer that is embarking on
an ambitious effort to create a global fashion empire under the Miiow
name…Outside China, Maoren sees Miiow competing against brands such
as Zara, H&M, Miss Sixty and Mango."

As an individual who has never been able to purchase clothing that fits, unless I’m willing to pay a petite premium and as a Giordano groupie, I can see already the potential for such a niche to be filled and the possibility of this becoming a global brand. What I find interesting however is the assumption that neither Esprit nor Giordano are global. Giordano for example is already available in two of the countries that I frequent, Malaysia and Singapore, they intend to enter India and are based in Hong Kong. That is four countries that I know of personally and I’m sure there are many others in the ASEAN region where they retail. However, that’s a minor point.

The key point here is the concept of sizing for the local customer. That is a cultural adaption of any global brand to the specific characteristics of the local market. That is a ‘unmet need’ that, imho, does not require much research or study to uncover. If indeed established brand names were already filling this niche, then the emergence of ambitious local players would not be ‘global’ news covered in magazines like AdAge.

I remember when KMart left Singapore due to poor sales – agreed, KMart as a brand cannot be equated with quality fashion lines – but the issue wasn’t so much whether they were of a particular segment in the fashion stakes but the fact that the clothing available there was for the most part way too big for local customers. We used to lift those items up and laugh at KMart saying "Who on earth do they think is going to buy size 48 here?" Mind you, this was before I had visited KMart’s domestic market hence was ignorant of their consumers particulars.

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2 Responses to Size matters across culture!

  1. Reminds me of a conversation we had recently. Seems like Kmart wasn’t interested in evolving products to suit new markets–it only wanted to push existing products as-is on more cattle.
    When pitching projects to big companies the thing they want to hear the most is “here’s a huge untapped market that you can sell your existing products to.” They want to hear that soo bad they’ll often hear it even if you don’t say it.
    Way down the list of things they want to hear is “here’s a huge untapped market, and we’re not entirely sure what they want, but we know it will involve changing some existing offerings and creating whole new ones.” Most of the folks you’re sitting accross the table from have now stopped listening to you and are instead fiddling with thier crackberries.
    *sigh*

  2. niti bhan says:

    Do you really think that this example – a Kmart that stocked up on oversize items of clothing and their smallest sizes available being larger than their average customer in Singapore – is one of not wanting to change or adapt their product lines at all for the new market? Would this not be so obvious as to be almost laughable?

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