While price is the overriding influencer at the discount channel, value retailers still can do a better job at garnering more sales when it comes to selling fashion and footwear.According to a study from Market Force Information, a customer experience management company, one key takeaway was that fashion sales associates miss many opportunities to sell.The study was conducted last December and included 10,821 North American consumers. Of those surveyed, 73 percent were female and 26 percent were male, and most were between the ages of 34 to 54. The average household income was at least $50,000.Barely half of the respondents — 43 percent — said they were assisted by a salesperson, with most citing service as finding a specific item or size, at 58 percent, followed by starting a dressing room at 40 percent. Other services included checking to see whether the item was on sale and suggesting complementary items or accessories.However, only 54 percent said sales associates "fully understood" what they wanted to buy, while only 50 percent said they were asked whether they wanted to purchase the item or items they were looking at. And only 38 percent said they were given suggested items that could fit what they were looking for.The results were only marginally better for footwear retailers such as Nike and Skechers: 56 percent said sales staff understood what consumers were looking for; 52 percent said the staff asked if they wanted to purchase the item or items, and 41 percent said they were given suggested items that could suit their needs.In the Market Force study, T.J. Maxx and Target were tied as the top value retailers for fashion, followed by Nordstrom Rack, Burlington's, Marshalls and Ross Stores.All retailers who made the top six were the ones most cited by those surveyed, averaging between 42 percent to 47 percent in the composite loyalty ranking. Walmart followed in seventh place, but was way down at 29 percent.Compared with Market Force's year ago results, T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack both lost ground, dropping from 53 percent to 47 percent and 50 percent to 46 percent, respectively. Target in contrast, gained, up from 41 percent to 47 percent.Separately, Walmart has been trying to up its fashion game through acquisitions such as Bonobos, Modcloth, Moosejaw and Shoebuy. It's also adding four private-label fashion brands, including women's brand Time and Tru and plus-size brand Terra & Sky. Target has been focused on launching and growing its private label assortment, including children's brand Cat & Jack, women's denim brand Universal Thread and fragrance brand Good Chemistry. An AlixPartners retail report on Thursday cited data from IRI noting that 75 percent of Millennials think private-label products are a better value than national brands. Both Walmart and Target are also in competition with Amazon, which has been making inroads in fashion through its Lark & Ro women's label and GoodThreads for men.The Market Force composite loyalty ranking considered the retailers' execution of seven key drivers: value for money spent; store atmosphere; ability to find correct size; speed of checkout; ability to create a "look"; merchandise selection, and ease of finding what one is looking for.While "value received for money spent," at 70 percent, was the biggest reason why respondents choose the seven retailers for their fashion shopping needs, customer service in the brick-and-mortar environment was the second reason, at 37 percent.For fashion retailers, a total of 31 percent also cited loyalty cards as a perception of value. Coming in second at 24 percent — and showing that product is still key in fashion retail — was the perception of being able to pull together a "look" that suits the consumer. And while the environment and personalization might be a bigger draw at other retail tiers of distribution, corporate sustainability or green practices, at 9 percent, or the ability to customize merchandise, at 11 percent, weren't on the list of priorities in the value channel.Ross Stores ranked first at 57 percent for value for the money spent, but was second to last among the top seven retailers when it came to store atmosphere and speed of checkout, 22 percent and 23 percent respectively. Target got the top spot for store atmosphere at 40 percent; speed of checkout, 41 percent, and ease of finding what one is looking for, 34 percent. Burlington won the top spot for ability to find correct size, 37 percent, ability to create a "look," also 37 percent and merchandise selection, 36 percent. With the exception of ability to find correct size, Walmart placed last among all seven retailers in the remaining six categories, averaging around 21 and 22 percent.The Market Force study is the latest one taking a look at the value chain.
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