BRAND UNPOPULARITY: Fashion brands were left in the dust by those from other parts of the U.S. and U.K. economies, when people ranked the three brands they considered best among any on offer. The rankings came in Harris Interactive polls fielded this summer and disclosed this fall. Retail nameplates, as well, were absent from the top 10 names on the U.S. roster, while three retailers rated on Britons’ list of 10 brand leaders: Marks & Spencer, ranking third; Tesco, fifth, and Boots, eighth.

This story first appeared in the November 26, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Great Britain has a much longer tradition of nationwide retail than the U.S.,” noted Marek Baygelt, managing director of operations for Harris Interactive Europe. “There is virtually no town without a Marks & Spencer, a Boots, or a Tesco. This may help explain the difference in retail brand presence between the two lists.”

Three other sectors also were represented in only one of the two countries’ rankings, belying notions of a broad commercial similarity between the cultures: the automotive, computer and chocolate industries. Two automotive brands made Americans’ roster of favorites — General Motors, which placed fourth, and Ford, sixth — while none were among Britons’ favorites. Similarly, a pair of computer-related companies rated strictly in Americans’ top 10, with Dell placing third, and Microsoft, fifth. The reverse was true when it came to chocolate, as Nestlé and Cadbury rated ninth and 10th, respectively, in the U.K. array, but no confectionery brands sweetened America’s list of favorites.

Just three names were common to the top 10 in the U.S. and U.K. — Sony, which led both lists; Coca-Cola, which ranked seventh on both, and Kellogg’s, which was rated ninth in the U.S. and fourth in the U.K. Filling out Americans’ favorites were Kraft, rated second Procter & Gamble, eighth, and General Electric and Pepsi-Cola, tied at 10th. Rounding out Britons’ best were Heinz, ranking second, and Flora, placing sixth.

BEELINE TO A NEW NICHE?: Is there room in today’s home-centered hiving trend for apparel marketers to develop a targeted market? Maybe so, responded J. Walker Smith, president of Atlanta-based market researcher Yankelovich Inc. Hiving, or reconnecting with people — often by entertaining them at one’s home — marks a reversal of the cocooning trend of the past two decades, a period in which people preferred to stay home in a spirit of disconnect. As the home is facilitating connection with others it becomes a metaphor for a beehive abuzz with activity.

With hiving’s social sensibility as a backdrop, Smith said, “there might be an opportunity for the right kind of apparel. There is a chance for fashion companies to educate people about this — what looks good, is appropriate and makes a statement. There is a leadership opportunity there.”

“Barring that,” Smith added, “people may pull on the same old sloppy clothes.”

The hiving dynamic is already influencing the real estate business, Smith noted. Catering to people’s increasing engagement in neighborhood activity, developers are building lifestyle villages that locate homes, stores and restaurants within walking distance of each other. Hiving is also playing out in the renewed popularity of Ping-Pong tables, board games and the family plans offered by wireless phone companies, among other things. “It all reflects a growing need for connection with others, although I don’t expect a return to the group orientation of the Forties and Fifties,” Smith projected. “It looks like too much sacrifice of self-interests to conform with group norms,” he added. “At the same time, people do want to look beyond themselves — to family ties, in particular.”

CHILLIN’ WITH THE P’S: Who would have thought the rebellious Sixties generation would spawn a healthy share of teens and young adults who actually like to shop with their parents — and whose fashion tastes can be colored by mom and dad? Add another piece of evidence to the mounting pile, this one plucked from Alloy’s Beats Per Minute survey of 330 males and females, ages 13 through 24, fielded this September. Nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, of that group shops with their families at least once every couple of months; 38 percent consider their parents cool, and 66 percent feel pretty close or extremely close to their immediate family.

As for the influence mothers and fathers have on the style of teens and young adults, 30 percent of those surveyed credited their parents with having some impact or a huge impact on the apparel they buy and wear, and 28 percent said their parents have some impact or a huge impact on their taste in fashion, clothes and shoes. Though the feeling is far from unanimous — 28 percent of the sample said their parents have no impact on the apparel they wear — the statistics still suggest individual ads aimed at both groups could prove effective.

BEYOND HIP-HOP: What’s the next big youth culture wave? In trendspotter Irma Zandl’s view it’s cholo that’s coming into focus, an urban subculture with Mexican-American flavor. Cholo’s influence is being felt, for example, at such radio stations as New York’s Power 106, which features cholo rap on Sunday nights by artists like Mr. Shadow, Lil Rob and Spanish Fly; in the resurgence of low-rider cars and lucha libre (freestyle) wrestling, and in the East Los Angeles backdrop being appropriated by hipster magazines such as Paper for fashion shoots. Chola fashion hallmarks include bandannas, tracksuit pants, dark colors and, in general, a touch of the tomboy rather than flouncy girly designs. For the boys, it’s about clean, throwback looks: buzz cuts, khakis and Pendleton plaid wool shirts, which caught a youth wave 40 years ago, when the Beach Boys — originally named the Pendletones — made them part of their style signature. Recently, entertainers from Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen to Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot have been spotted sporting bandannas folded across the front of their heads, chola style.

“This trend feels exactly like rap/hip-hop culture did in the early Eighties and I believe it will follow the same trajectory,” Zandl said of cholo, which is Mexican slang for gangster. “On a scale of one to 10, we’re at about stage two in mainstream awareness and adoption, versus hip-hop, which is at about 10. Cholo feels fresh and visually appealing — something we expect to be with us over the next 10 years.”

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