New research claims the high street makes women over 50 feel ignored


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “New research claims the high street makes women over 50 feel ignored” was written by Rebecca Smithers, for theguardian.com on Thursday 20th November 2014 12.44 UTC

The first major research study into fashion for mature British women has foundthat just 20% feel the high street caters for them well – despite 90% of British retailers seeing most growth from the 50-plus sector.

In spite of the surfeit of face creams and anti-ageing treatments on offer, just 10% of mature women said they worried about getting wrinkles, while almost eight out of 10 (77%) mature women said they would never have any form of cosmetic surgery.

Though females aged 50 and over are one of the most powerful consumer groups in the UK, spending more than £2.5bn per season on fashion, according to Kantar Worldpanel, 61% felt their age group is forgotten by the high street. Almost three out of five women do not feel their age group is well represented on television (57%) or magazines (58%), and 76% do not think they are well represented in advertising – with these figures increasing with age, according to a YouGov poll of 2,000 women for the retailer JD Williams.

The poll also revealed nine out of 10 British women aged 50 and over (91%) are scared of the health problems associated with growing older, particularly losing independence and having to rely on others (69%), and memory loss (64%). However, women’s body confidence is higher in their 50s than in their 30s and 40s, with 52% of women feeling most confident aged 45+.

Angela Spindler, chief executive officer of the N Brown Group – parent company of JD Williams, said: “There are more women in the 50+ bracket than ever before and it’s abundantly clear that they have felt let down by the fashion industry. We’ve made it our mission to address this. Shopping for clothes should be easy and enjoyable, whether you’re 16 or 60. Recent years have seen this population of women emerge as the most powerful consumer group and the fastest-growing fashion sector. No longer does 50 signal the start of the slow decline into old age, it now marks the midpoint of a woman’s life.”

She said the report was “a wakeup call to the fashion, retail and media industries to give these women what they want. It’s our job to empower; after all, ignoring them should be done with peril.”

Despite feeling secure about the way they want to dress (only 19% said that they struggle to find their style identity), women aged over 50 reported feeling underserved by retailers. Sixty-six per cent of mature women felt they would like to see more choice suited to their age group, and just 16% felt loyal to one store.

Twiggy appearing in an advert for Marks & Spencer
Twiggy appearing in an advert for Marks & Spencer Photograph: Marks and Spencer

Marks & Spencer was the first retailer on the UK high street to launch spanx armwear to cover so-called bingo wings or flabby upper arms and enable older women to wear sleeveless dresses with confidence. Sometimes criticised by female shoppers for offering dowdy clothes, it has been revamping its fashion offering and is currently showcasing its new womenswear collection for spring/summer 2015.

A spokeswoman for M&S said: “We speak to over 55,000 customers a month and our older customers tell us they are looking for exactly the same things as the rest of our customers – stylish, quality clothes, with flattering fits. Our ranges are developed to appeal to a broad range of customers. For example, our Twiggy for M&S Collection offers wearable, flattering fashion and our Classics range captures a timeless elegance with a nod to seasonal trends, with pieces that are stylish, smart and comfortable.”

  • The survey for JD Williams was carried out online in October 2014, involving more than 2,000 women aged 50+. This ran alongside a smaller comparative survey involving 540 women aged 18 to 49.

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