Designer- and retail-brand savvy Millennials are planning to spend more money on apparel this holiday shopping season while applauding companies for delivering fashion-forward looks this year.

And when it comes to retail brand awareness, Topshop, Free People, Zara, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Steve Madden, Urban Decay and Madewell, among others, are top of mind. And footwear will be playing an important role this year.

That’s the latest read from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business’s FINdex — or fashion innovation index, which is based on surveys of self-described “style gurus” who are part of It is produced in collaboration with consulting firm Kalypso, and is a measure of consumer sentiment “toward fashion trends in the apparel, footwear and accessory industry.”

“Some retailers reported some headwinds during the third quarter, including Macy’s and Nordstrom, but our findings suggest that they’ll see a bit of an improvement in this quarter,” said John Talbott, associate director of the Kelley School’s Center for Education and Research in Retailing. At 2.46, the spending component of the index is at its highest level ever while the “current sentiment” part of the index is at its highest level since spring 2014.

Aside from expecting to spend more this fourth quarter, the survey revealed that respondents “are enthusiastic about what they’re seeing in stores.” Eighty percent of those polled said that the products “they were seeing in stores were more innovative than a year ago.”

“Our FINdex is a composite measure of perceived spending capability along with a perception of the product they’re seeing in the stores, and in both cases, for this particular survey, we saw an uptick in spending capability relative to last year and an uptick in overall product enthusiasm,” Talbott added.

Steve Riordan, a partner at Kalypso, said “merchandise innovation may end up being every retailer’s best friend this holiday season. The main driver behind this season’s strong FINdex score is the perceived amount of innovation appearing in color, prints and especially fabrications.”

Riordan said it is critical for retailers to “develop highly effective product-development capabilities for both merchandise and the underlying materials to create the consistent flow of innovative, fresh product that the women we surveyed — and millions more like them — demand.”

The researchers said in their report that most of “their holiday spending will be on apparel, but survey results indicate it also will be a strong year for footwear.”

“Boots or booties were the single most important ‘must-have’ item for those in the survey — but not Uggs, which was frequently cited from brand respondents’ view as overexposed,” the report noted. “Among the popular footwear brands mentioned were Sam Edelman and Stuart Weitzman.”

Talbott said the respondents “tend to sniff out brands at the early stages of overexposure. With this population, things go stale quickly and you have to keep products fresh. If the product is overexposed, then these women tend to run away from it pretty quickly. We also think that they tend to lead the rest of the population.”

For example, last year Brandy Melville was cited as an up-and-coming brand. “Though still generally a well-liked brand, the percentage of those who said they are tired of Brandy Melville has increased, including one respondent who said, ‘I still love her styles but everyone wears them and they are no longer unique,'” the researchers said.

In regards to how they shop, Talbott and Riordan said consumers are using a blend of channels with the product type or the “particular purpose” of the shopping trip driving the decision to shop online, on a mobile device or in a physical store. Both agreed that it was time to write an obituary for the term “omnichannel.”

“Clearly these women embrace the evolving nature of retail today and are channel-agnostic in terms of their choice of shopping destinations,” Talbott explained. “The type of product or the particular purpose of the shopping trip likely drives the selection of store versus Web. [And] we need to quit saying ‘e-commerce,’ it’s ‘commerce.’ Whether they’re buying online from that brand or they’re going to the store that brand owns, the beginning of their journey toward that purchase often starts with an interaction through a browser.”

“Brands are often more important than the venue or channel,” Riordan added.

Moreover, the researchers note that “physical brick-and-mortar stores remained the most important shopping destination of the young women surveyed. There, they expect to see well-organized products, beautiful displays and an overall fresh vibe. This also indicates that price discounts won’t be what these young women are looking for. They may appreciate price value, but they aren’t driven by sales.”

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