The global trend of men’s fashion sales growing faster than women’s is visible in Finland, too. Last year, Finnish consumers’ spending on clothing increased by one per cent compared to the previous year. International online and consumer-to-consumer purchases increased, while the share of boutiques and supermarket fashion sales declined. Finnish consumers buy much of their clothing from supermarkets, sports stores and international fashion chains. The most popular place to buy clothing and footwear is Prisma.

It is predicted that in many countries the sales of menswear will experience faster growth than women’s fashion. Competition in the market for men’s fashion is likely to increase in the coming years, as men around the world continue to buy more clothes. Demographics such as the men of China’s growing middle-class are an inviting target for Western brands, which shows in the interest in market platforms such as Alibaba.

“In addition to offering potential for considerable growth, the Chinese consumer market is interesting, as the use of digital sales channels is rapidly increasing and over half of all clothing and footwear purchases are already made online,” says the Head Economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation, Jaana Kurjenoja.

Men’s clothing is often also more expensive than women’s, which draws in competition. According to a survey* conducted by the Finnish Commerce Federation, men’s clothing purchased by Finnish consumers is approximately 24% more expensive than women’s. For sports and outdoor clothing, the difference is 15%, for footwear 11%.

Customers of a fashion boutique are often over 50

Despite the growing market for menswear, 57% of all Finnish fashion consumers are women, and women over 50 are the largest consumer group. Men over 50 are the second largest group. The smallest target groups are all consumers under 25 and men under 35.

Women continue to purchase large amounts of menswear: 45% of all female customers also bought men’s clothing last year, whereas only 14% of men bought women’s clothing. Women also play the biggest role in purchasing children’s fashion.

The most popular places for purchasing clothing for women are Hennes & Mauritz, Prisma and K-Citymarket. For men, Prisma, Dressmann and K-Citymarket comprise the big three. However, listings of the most popular stores vary considerably depending on the age and location of consumers. In the capital area, both men and women are more likely to shop at Stockmann than elsewhere in Finland.

In total, women under 35 often prefer international fashion chains, while consumers over 35 tend to do their shopping for clothes at supermarkets and department stores as well as boutiques perceived to have a slightly higher price range. Men often shop for fashion in sports stores, but also purchase a lot of their clothing in supermarkets.

Stores and mobile market places have great impact

Although 40% of all fashion consumers purchased clothing online last year, almost 90% also made purchases at a physical store. The traditional store continues to have a great impact on a consumer’s purchase trail. 58% of customers had sought out information – compared prices and products, looked for additional product details or tried on clothing – at a physical store before purchasing a product.

“Finnish consumers appear to view sales personnel as a reliable source of information, which means that the store staff may have great influence over purchasing decisions. Visiting stores clearly supports men in making successful purchases, as they make these in stores more often than women do,” Kurjenoja sums up the survey results.

Mobile purchasing of clothing remains marginal in Finland. Last year, only 17% of customers had purchased clothing or footwear using a smartphone or a tablet. However, 57% of customers had researched their potential purchase on a smartphone before making the decision to purchase: customers looked up store locations and opening times, compared prices and researched product details.

“Researching a product using a mobile device has become such a core part of a consumer’s purchase trail that stores must now develop ways of serving their customers via channels that are optimised for mobile use. According to our survey, customers feel that official product descriptions are the most reliable source of information, and therefore product descriptions must be made available and seeking more information on products made easy on mobile devices for sales to be successful,” Kurjenoja notes.

Mobile payment for clothing purchases was not frequent, but its use had increased slightly for consumers under 25. At physical stores, payment was typically made using a debit card, or, with younger consumers in particular, cash. The most common form of payment in online stores were the online bank payment links provided, but the use of various online payment services was also highly popular.

Price is the defining factor for a successful shopping experience

The most important factor in perceiving that a purchase has been successful is the price – while this is not dependent on the channel via which a purchase is made, the role of price is highlighted on digital channels. In addition to price, consumers are tempted back into stores where they have previously made successful purchases, and for physical stores, location and perceived quality are also key factors. Large selections of products also draw in customers for successful purchases on digital platforms.

“When a consumer makes a successful purchase, they will have most likely found out the price of the product in advance. For successful purchases on digital platforms, consumers will also often have looked up the availability and terms of return for the desired product. Therefore, it is important that at least this information is easily found on a business’ website, also on mobile devices,” Kurjenoja points out.

The most common reason given for unsuccessful purchases, both in-store and online, is that the size, colour or material of the purchased product was not as desired. Another key factor was the purchased product being perceived as poor value for money. Misleading size charts and other unreliable information were a top hurdle for online stores. However, Finnish consumers on the whole are fairly happy with their clothing purchases, as clearly less than half had experienced disappointments.

“Men in particular appear to be a satisfied consumer group. Purchasing menswear may sometimes be easier than shopping for women’s clothing, but men also clearly take more advantage of the information offered by clothing stores. This is perhaps the reason they are disappointed less often than women are,” Kurjenoja ponders.

Further information: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378.

*The Clothing Market and a Consumer’s Purchase Trail survey is based on both statistical sources (primarily the official statistics provided by Statistics Finland and the Statista Consumer Market Outlook) and a separate consumer survey. The consumer survey covers 2,032 Finnish consumers over 15 living in continental Finland, and the data was collected by TNS Kantar in March and April 2018.

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce—the largest sector of economic life. Commerce employs around 300,000 people in Finland. The Federation has around 7,000 member companies and it represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry policy and labour market lobbying. www.kauppa.fi