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Wednesday 1 March 2023

How Much Longer Can Brands Ignore the Revenue Opportunity of Older Women?

 & #WowOnWednesday

The Is This Mutton survey 2023 results on women's wardrobes and influences over the age of 50

Brands are failing to represent older women in their ads and on websites,  even though nearly 60% of women over 40 buy more clothes now than they did in their teens or 20s.

This huge discrepancy is highlighted in the 2023 Is This Mutton annual survey.  

The phenomenon of brands shunning older consumers is not a new one. In 2020 The Guardian (UK) reported that the fashion and beauty industry’s “shameful sidelining” of older consumers could cost it £11bn over the next 20 years, according to research by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK).

In the Is This Mutton survey, brands who were praised for featuring older women in their marketing and photography included M&S  (although they were also criticized), Look Fabulous Forever, Seasalt, Land's End, Dove, The Bias Cut, Girlfriend Collective, Universal Standard and Snag.

Those who are failing to be inclusive include John Lewis, Superdry, Kettlewell, Asos, J Crew, Banana Republic and Boden. Meanwhile the recent Fashion Weeks in London and Italy also failed to make  much progress on their runways in terms of older models being used, among them Prada, run by a 73 year old woman. 

The survey in UK-based blog Is This Mutton examined women's buying habits and sources of inspiration. The majority of women who took part was aged 50+ and living in the UK or USA. There were also respondents in Italy, Portugal,  Australia and Canada. 

The results showed that older women are voracious shoppers who know what they like. Nearly 55% believe they are more stylish now than they were when they were in their 20s.  Online shopping is far more popular than visiting stores, and mid-life women tend to shop a mix of online, in-store and charity or thrift shops.

Let's Look at Those Buying Habits

Research shows that the over 50s have more disposable income than young people. The US Federal Reserve's data in 2020 showed that despite making up the largest portion of the workforce, millennials controlled less than 5% of the US's wealth. 

And it's reflected in the Is This Mutton survey results. More than 50% buy clothes whenever they feel like it, with 23% saying they buy something at least once or twice a month. 

Partners and spouses have very little influence over our choices. The old stereotype of women hiding purchases away is exactly that - an old, and outdated, stereotype. Just 12%  hide purchases from their spouse or partner.  If asked about what they're wearing, nearly 68% will say "Yes it's new," compared to 8% who reply "What, this old thing?"

It looks as if a lot of us are making bad decisions when we buy. 65% have clothes they haven't worn for six months or more, while 54% have inadvertently bought duplicates of garments they already have. With 83% not using any system to catalog their wardrobe, there's a big opportunity for style consultants. 

Bedroom with a closet /wardrobe. Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

We have a lot of clothes.  63% have two wardrobes. 5% have 5 or more wardrobes. We would probably need more wardrobes if we weren't storing clothes which are out of season. Let's crunch some numbers on "How Many" we have.....

  • Shoes, boots and other footwear:  average 40-50.  Lowest was 5, highest was 320 pairs (it wasn't me, honest)
  • Winter coats: average of 4 or 5
  • Swimsuits: average of 2
  • Hats: average of 6. Highest was 45
But for all those clothes, we are also thinking about our consumption. Nearly 77% want to buy fewer clothes this year, which makes it all the more important that brands are influencing us to choose them.

I added up my own footwear tally, and was pleasantly surprised by the result. 

Is This Mutton blogger Gail Hanlon comes clean about how many pairs of boots and shoes she has

Who Influences Us? 

Influencers were mentioned several times, and those who featured were Jill from Grownup Glamour (left), Judith Boyd, 78, @Style Crone (top right), Jodie from J Touch of Style (centre, right) and Susan Blakey from Une Femme d'un Certain Age (bottom right). Also mentioned were Shelbee from Shelbee on the Edge, Tracey Lea Sayer from Who What Wear , Daenel Vaughn-Tucker from Living Outside the Stacks and Iris Apfel, @iris.apfel, who's 101. 

What most of these women have in common is that they're bloggers. They're all present on Instagram but it's not where the majority of mid-life women go. We're still found largely on Facebook, thanks to  communities such as the Kettlewell Colour Club and Tricia's Super Troopers.  But we also favour long-form content, and are loyal to our favourite bloggers.  Where else will we see older women of all shapes and sizes enjoying fashion? 

Other women who influence you include those in political life - Brigitte Macron, Jill Biden, Nancy Pelosi; royals such as the Princess of Wales and Countess of Wessex, and actresses such as Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Helena Bonham-Carte, Jennifer Aniston and Audrey Hepburn.

But the biggest group of influencers are our cheerleaders:  our mothers, sisters and friends. Good to see!

Three mid life women. Photo by  Anna Shvets for Pexels.

How Should We be Represented?

What would you consider as a breakthrough in the representation of older women in mainstream media?  I would like to see beauty companies using more "ordinary" older women to promote their products rather than the likes of Helen Mirren et al, who, glamorous as they are, are a tiny sub-section of the audience. 

I would also like to see more female characters like Sgt Catherine Cawood  (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley: a strong, fearless, capable woman in her late 50s who didn't particularly bother about what she looked like! 

I would like to see more companies role-modelling inclusivity in their marketing. They think they are, because they feature younger people of different ethnic origins, but they still swerve showing older people and disabled people in a positive light. The problem of course is that most social media practitioners are young people.  When companies are making "economies" their experienced older workers tend to be targeted, which is ironic now that the UK government wants more of them to return to work.

What would you like to see?  Did anything in the results surprise you?  Do share in the comments. 

Now it's time for #WowOnWednesday, Bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers are invited to share new and evergreen content. 

Last Week's Favourites

Anna's All White Outfit with Pink Stripe Shirt for a Hot Summer Day Anna blogs at Looking Fabulous @ Fifty. 

Thrifted Outfit Head to Toe for less than $25 from Mireille of Chez Mireille

Toloso Vest - Crochet Pattern from Alexandra of LoveEyeKnots

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  1. Very interesting. But I think it's a very slow process. Look at how long it took to see the fuller women in ads. As long as we be ourselves.

    1. True Nancy. Every now and then we see progress but then it stops.

  2. Change doesn't happen overnight and I'm sure it doesn't help when the people working for brands are young. Maybe that's a good reason for us older folks to stay in our jobs and push for this!!

    1. I gave up work 6 months ago (digital marketing) but hopefully can push via the blog, LinkedIn and IG. The more we highlight the issue - particularly against inclusivity targets - the more likely we are to have success xx


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