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2005.04.22

Comments

Alexandra

I wasn't sure if you ever got my e-mail about this a few weeks ago, but I'm glad that if you did I didn't sound like I was totally making things up!

Why is 35 the dividing line between nubility and death?

I think that Gap feels it would be too risky to overtly market clothing to "women pushing 60." The last thing women in America want is to broadcast the message "I'm in my fifties!" A company can run the risk of scaring away the very customers it's trying to attract, just by marketing directly to them.

It's the same reason that skincare products never feature women over 24, no matter what they're created to do. Companies may be selling a product designed for older women, but they still have to piggyback it on marketing that brings to mind young women. Nobody wants to look their age, and nobody wants to "dress their age." Your age, whatever it is, has too many negative connotations attached for you to voluntarily associate yourself with it. Likewise, mannequins always wear the smallest size available - whether it's at Chanel or Lane Bryant. No matter who your product is geared to, you have to make your customers think of people thinner than themselves when they think of it. Otherwise they'll shy away. (Nobody wants to look their size, either.)

Of course, this is all just speculation, since I can't really think of any attractive clothing lines marketed to "women over 40" at all, much less any who failed as a result of scaring their customers away with honesty. Maybe some company should try it and surprise us all with its massive success. And maybe Forth & Towne will eventually get an "over 40" brand image once its target customers make it their own. But it's still depressing that it has to start out in this wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of way.

Jecca

I keep thinking that "Forth" should be "Fourth," no matter how many times I read it. And I think most of my friends in their mid- to late-30s would be pretty insulted to be called boomers.

ginger

Yeah, if, at 35, I'm a Boomer, please deliver the influence over advertisers that I'm purported to have. Because I'm still here wrapped in the sheet, waiting for the non-tarty non-elderly office clothes. I'm indeed pretty insulted by all those advertisers who claim 35 for the Boomers, because I don't seem to exist for them.

Like those makeup ads where the allegedly-35-year-old claims to be 28? If she's 35, I really am 25, or she's a helluva heavy smoker. No, she's 45 and she represents the damn boomers and their need for heavy-duty moisturizers. Nothing wrong with needing spackle - we all do, in time. But - 35-year-olds have their own skin needs (beginnings of fine lines, with forehead flaking and oily chin and nose, anyone? how 'bout weird skin from coming off the Pill on doctor's orders? eye bags from sleepless nights deciding whether we can still have babies now that we've established our careers?) and there's no room for us left if the 45-year-olds are pretending to our age.

esme

And the thing is, I don't necessarily buy the argument that the baby boom women want to pretend to be our age. If my mom (who's smack in the center of the baby boomer age range) were told that a certain store is for the "over 35" crowd, she probably wouldn't even bother looking in there -- she might go in to do some Christmas shopping for my stepsister, but even if she found something for herself she probably wouldn't make it a habit. She doesn't think of herself as being lumped in with 35-year-olds, and while she wants to wear flattering, kind-of-cool-looking clothes, she doesn't want to dress like a "kid." I imagine the women at the upper end of that range are going to be even less likely to check it out. I mean, they're asking those women to believe they should be dressing nearly half their age.

It seems to me that by making this statement, Forth & Towne is pretty much restricting its market to baby boom women who are delusional about their age, which isn't a market that will grow. Women like my mom won't shop there now, and women our age won't shop there ever -- first because they've made it clear they don't really want us yet, and later because we'll have spent years perceiving it as "our moms' store."

I don't know -- am I off the mark here? Does Forth & Towne have a shot at still being in business 10 years from now when we're all entering its target market?

PG

Demographic appeal aside, I just don't like the concept. It's already tired. I wouldn't shop at Forth & Towne, because in my mind the brand already seems like a Casual Corner (as brought to you by Gap!). No thanks. If they are trying to sell a retro luxe shopping experience, they are failing. If they are trying to sell a Gap-is-relevant-and-cool-for-grownups-again, they are failing. So far, anyway... maybe the stores themselves will execute and surpass the weak concept. (But I doubt it.)

Plus I think this naming trend of ____ & ____, where the words are supposed to wittily "evoke" something while sounding vaguely like the name of a crusty white law firm (witness Finn & Porter, ooh, look, fin like on tuna, porterhouse, get it? HA HA HA, GET IT?) is saturated and dead.

Or, maybe it's just me and I'm a branding snob... but I feel confident that even Joe Bob and Lurleen Q. Public can see through the class affect by now... and Muffy and Chas Q. Public didn't buy it to begin with.

Anne

Forth & Towne is a *terrible* name. It evokes a house brand at Penny's or Sears more than any old-school elegance. for instance, Roundtree & York is the store brand at Dillard's (and is a more harmonious sounding name.)

And hey, I'm 36 - my *parents* are the boomers! I'm not a boomer! As I've already stated here at least once, I don't *want* to wear the same clothes as my mother. The boomer ladies already have enough choices, and now I'm whining, but I really do find this situation frustrating.

What I suspect is that Gap Co. is trying to go head-to-head with Chico's, J. Jill, Talbots, and their ilk, but like those stores, have to try to snag the 50+ market while pretending they sell their clothes to 30+ women.

Lisa

Anne, thank you for saying pithily what I was trying to express -- my MOM is a boomer, not me.

*

Something that occured to me after I posted: why launch the brand as a retail presence first, instead of doing a soft Web launch about two months prior to the stores? E-commerce is such a perfect platform for targeting specific audiences, and it would be a great way to virally build a brand name, and loop it into association with existing properties.

I was kind of curious about Janeville, for example, and when I went to check the site, it was this flat postcard nonsense. There wasn't even any inducement to put my name on an e-mail list -- why should I sign up for a mailing list if there's no apparent value for doing so?

It seems like retailers really don't get how e-commerce is associated with a lot of upscale shopping appeal -- the thrill of discovering "your" brand or piece, the point-to-point delivery in an e-mail newsletter or weblog, the cachet of knowing about something first, the convenience of ordering what you want when you want. It's rich that the number-one group for the "you're so busy ... but we can help" marketing tactic isn't getting hit up via the Web.

Uli

It is indeed a horrible name, will it become F&T or FAT for short?

But as an about to be fellow 33 year old, who has been lead to believe for many years that I'm a Gen-Xer with boomer parents, it distresses me greatly that Gap is under the impression that I'm about to become fashionably over the hill. Hey, I'm just figuring out my actual style, and more importantly to retailers I'm just into the years when I actually have a substantial disposable income to spend on it.

But I would have to agree with Anne, they're likely trying to capture the 50+ market by pretending to sell to 35+ women. And I suspect that means that once again those of us in our 30s are going to miss out on reasonably priced alternatives.

Elisabeth

I just turned 40 and I have to say, I never thought of myself as a Boomer but Gen X, and turning 40 was a huge shock, and I actually don't feel any different. There's something retailers don't realize--you don't suddenly turn into another person when you turn 40. It's just a number. That said, I agree totally about the lame Janeville Web site, but I visited the place and found it pretty nice. Some of the clothes too conservative for me, others fine for weekends. Not for work, too casual. I didn't LOVE it, but it was OK. Fox News described it as a cross between Anthropologie and something else...I guess I like Anthropologie better.

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