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Sneakers | Different age groups | Looking forA number of sneaker styles were shown GDS Winter, held 10-12 February.
March 2016

Why different age groups

buy sneakers

Sneakers are ageless and worn by young and old — although the reasons for buying change from one age group to another. What appeals to young and older customers can vary significantly from the type of kicks teens look for. RHIANAH RHODE spoke to local retailers to help shed some light on the sneaker choices consumers of different ages make

The brand name and price tag are the main determining factors when customers choose their sneakers. There is also a radical shift between the important features for age groups: for older consumers price is very important, but younger sneaker shoppers firstly, secondly and thirdly look for their favourite brand: for the 10-29 year olds it’s all about the brand, no matter what it costs, what’s the style, or how pretty it looks.

But, parents buying sneakers for young children (under nine’s) and older customers (30 plus) will look at the price tag before they look at the brand name, or consider what it looks like.

These are the views of most retailers who responded to the Sports Trader survey* about what features are important to consumers of different age groups when buying sneakers.

“The fact that brands like Nike, adidas and PUMA are dominating the South African market is also affecting sneaker sales,” commented Shabeer V from Street Gear, who also believes that sneaker consumers are very brand loyal. “Customers can no longer be persuaded in-store to purchase an alternative, should his request not be physically available.”

He also believes that social media influences consumers’ choice and that the retail landscape is being changed by this — and will change even more as technology advances.

Nike and adidas are the preferred brands among teenagers, while the most popular brand among customers who buy sneakers for kids and pre-teens is also Nike, retail respondents reported. Converse is highly rated by teenagers, young adults in their twenties, and older (30-44 years) customers. Adidas is also a favourite brand of their twenty-something customers, retailers say, while Jordan (from Nike) and Le Coq Sportif are other popular sneaker brands mentioned by respondents.

“Consumers’ sneaker choices are also dependent on the culture they follow i.e. basketball, hip-hop and so on,” believes Karabo Mosaka from Tlakkies Sports.

Kids (5-9 years)

Parents shopping for their little ones mainly look for sneakers with a good price point say 45% of the retail respondents. Kids’ feet grow quickly and therefore shoes need to be replaced more often than adults’ — for these customers, more affordable canvas options may therefore be more appealing than pricier leather or suede sneakers.

There are, however, consumers that only search for specific brands when they shop for their little ones, say about a quarter of the respondents. Less than 10% of retailers find that the sneaker style — whether it has a hi or low top design — or aesthetics, are important for this age group. Hardly any respondents mentioned that trendiness, buying the latest product launch, or gender-specific styles sway customers’ decision in this age group.

With kids it is also important to note that they may not necessarily have any say in the sneakers purchased for them, so it may be best to consider the wants of their parents — probably in their twenties or thirties — when trying to gauge what to stock for these customers. With this age group the parents’ brand loyalty will most likely influence the type of brands they will purchase for their kids.

Pre-teens (10-12 years)

Customers buying for 10-12 year olds base their decision on the brand, say 39% of respondents. The trendiness of the sneaker is also important for these customers, say 22% of the respondents, while price is a determining factor for less than a fifth (17%). Only 9% say that being the first to wear the latest launches are important for this age group.

This age group still depend on their parents’ purses for the kicks they buy, and therefore keep an eye on the price, but they will want to assert their own tastes by selecting a specific brand and what’s on trend.

As with the 5-9 year olds, very few respondents (4%) report that customers in the pre-teen category are interested in the aesthetics, style and gender-specific detailing of the sneakers they buy.

Teenagers (13-18)

For teenagers the brand name is most important, say 48% of respondents. Trendiness and having the latest launches are also the most important considerations for their high school level customers, report of 22% of respondents.

There are a number of popular sportsmen, musicians and other celebrities that teenagers identify with and follow, therefore ranges revolving around these type of icons may serve to improve sales to customers in this age group.

No retailers believe that this age group even think about factors like aesthetics or cost, and only 4% say that teenagers consider the style of the sneakers — hi or low top — or gender-specific features when buying.

Young adults (19-29)

Young adults mainly look at brand names when purchasing sneakers, indicated most (54%) of the respondents. The trendiness of the sneakers is the most important factor to sway a sale for customers in their twenties say 17% of the respondents, but only 13% of the respondents report that having the latest launches and styles are most important for their customers.

Aesthetics, price and gender-specific detailing play no role in sneaker purchases for this age group.

Older customers

Although the brand name is still relatively important to 30-44 year olds, the older the customer the more they value the aesthetics, getting value for money and the quality of the product, says an anonymous retail respondent.

The survey confirms this: price rules the roost when it comes to middle aged (older than 45) customers say 65% of retailers, a third say that the 30-44 years age group first look at price and nearly half (45%) say that parents buying sneakers for children under nine consider the price tag above all features. But, less than 10% of respondents report that the brand is the most important aspect for their customers older than 45.

Brand choice is not as important for older sneaker shoppers as for a younger crowd, but it is still important — it is the most important factor for adults (30-44 year olds) buying from the stores of 25% of the respondents.

This is followed by aesthetics, the top factor that sways 30-44 year olds, report 21% of respondents. Nearly a fifth say that this is most important for the over 45’s.

When this age group goes shopping for sneakers, the latest launches, styles and gender-specific features are hardly mentioned by retailers. Comfort would, however, play a role in the sneaker purchase of older customers, says an anonymous respondent.

No respondents selling to this age group believe trendiness, having the latest launches, or style influence their customers’ choices when buying their sneakers.

To summarise: according to retailer feedback brand name is the determining factor when pre-teens, teenagers and young adults buy sneakers, while it is also an important factor for adults. Price is especially important for older customers and parents who buy for young kids.

Aesthetics play a fairly significant role when adults and older customers buy sneakers, while trendiness is mostly valued by customers aged 10-29 years old.

Buying the latest launches is (not surprisingly) the most important for teenagers, whereas young adults would be most concerned with the latest style... “There is a trend for hi ankle boots this year,” reports Mohamed Regragui of Top Up Shoes.

Gender-specific sneakers is the least important factor for sneaker buying customers of all age groups, the respondents report.

About the survey

The Survey was conducted through an online questionnaire that lifestyle apparel and footwear, and surf and beachwear retailers were asked to complete. Retailers were given the option to remain anonymous, or to give their consent to be named and quoted.

The questions were divided in six age groups, and we asked retailers to tell us which factor is the most important for customers in that age group. Where they specified that the brand name is most important for a specific age group, we asked them to indicate which brand.

Sneakers taking the hybrid fashion route

More and More designers are creating hybrid styles, a combination of dress, casual and athletic, to offer one shoe that does it all — and sneakers are following the trend by moving towards styles that fit any occasion from casual to formal, say trend forecasters at the GDS show.

For the new season they expect sneakers in a combinations of bohemian elements, modern shapes and sandwich soles made up of a number of materials.

Visual elements expected to be prominent this season include gleaming surfaces, leather braiding, patchwork, stitching and linen, silk and cashmere materials.

Warm colours mixed with beige, caramel, red and orange tones, or cool and clean with pastels and grey will also be featuring.

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