Where to buy clothes used to be a relatively simple matter. There was always the question of style and selection. The customer, however, had a limited number of retail options — local merchants, department stores, specialty stores and mail-order catalogues.

And most retailers observed such conventions as personal service, holiday closings, Sunday closings and free tailoring, among others.

But today’s apparel customer has the greatest selection of venues in history, ranging from national and international department and specialty stores to local shops. And, thanks to technology, today’s fashion customer can shop any time, anywhere in the world.

In order to determine where and how American women shop for apparel and accessories, WWD commissioned Synovate, an independent  marketing research firm based in Tarrytown, N.Y., to conduct a national survey.

The project was conducted using Synovate’s online e-panel  among females 13 to 64 years of age with household incomes of $35,000 or more.

A total of 2,935 females responded to the poll. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 percent. Field work was conducted May 4 to 9, 2005.

In addition to demographic questions, respondents were asked to respond to 21 questions dealing with shopping behavior and retail preferences.

The questions covered frequency of shopping for apparel and accessories; store preferences using  eight retailer types: department stores, large specialty stores, smaller specialty chains, independent boutiques, discount stores, warehouse clubs, the Internet and catalogues.

Included was a question on preference of shopping at traditional enclosed malls, downtown areas, strip malls or over the Internet.

The survey also asked for the one store where the respondent shopped most often for certain categories of clothing, including jeans, casual wear, intimate apparel and accessories, and then asked to  identify up to five stores where they frequently shopped for each item.

In categories where consumers were asked to pick more than one store, the figures exceed 100 percent.

The poll asked respondents to rate their experiences and identify merchandise purchased over the Internet, and to identify key Internet sites used to purchase clothing and accessories.

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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