Tan Xin Ying Shauna Nanyang Girls’ High School Mentor: A/P Teofilo C Daquila, Southeast Asian Studies Programme, NUS Teacher Supervisor: Ms Ong Lee Hua ABSTRACT Fashion. To many young female Singaporeans like myself, fashion is a form of identity. It is a huge part of our lives that determines the crowd in which we belong in and the various stereotypes in which we receive.
Fashion, specifically clothing and apparel, is highly diversified into different styles and categories, which has become highly versatile and influenced by many environmental factors. I believe that through this study of consumer behaviour of a sampling of young female Singaporeans with regards to the fashion industry, specifically clothing and apparel, it is possible to identify the core factors that affect the fashion tastes and consumer behaviour of female Singaporean youth today.
Through this study, predictions of emergent trends can also be made based on the current consumer behaviour of young female Singaporeans. Other issues and factors that have seen to affect the consumer behaviour of female Singaporean youth as identified from past research, including Westernisation, will also be addressed, considering clearly the impact that these factors make on the consumer behaviour of young female Singaporeans relating to the clothing and apparel industry.
In order to achieve these goals, a review of literature would be necessary to better understand the current situation and trends. A qualitative and quantitative survey will then be given out to a sampling of young female Singaporeans to find out the answer to these doubts and questions. INTRODUCTION In today’s modern society, youth get to make their own decisions when it comes to fashion, no longer is it that parents choose the types of clothes that young Singaporeans will wear.
This has led to the major role that youth play in the consumer behaviour of the fashion industry in Singapore. The increasing effect that young Singaporeans on the clothes and apparel industry in particular is astonishing. In a survey conducted by The Straits Times 31 July 1995, it was discovered that the most popular jeans among Singaporean youth were not the high priced designer jeans of international brand and label, but the low-end Giordano jeans made in Hong Kong.
However, with the advancement of technology and financial status, the consumer behaviour of young Singaporeans with regards to clothing and apparel may have differed and these past studies may no longer be relevant. Through this study, we would be able to determine the factors that affect the consumer behaviour and patterns of young Singaporeans today and hence identify future trends, to stimulate and facilitate economic growth in the fashion industry.
For this particular study, I have chosen to study young female Singaporeans. This allows me to focus in more detail on the factors that truly affect their decision and choices in clothing and apparel. The female youths surveyed refer to adolescents aged 13-16 from various schools, in order to get accurate results of all social groups of female youth, not just youth from mainstream or elite schools respectively.
This study also aims to find out what are the factors are that cause young female Singaporeans to favour certain brands or labels over others, how young female Singaporeans choose the trends that they follow, why certain types of clothing and apparel are more popular among young Singaporeans in today’s society, how Westernisation has influenced the behaviour of female youth in Singapore and some emergent trends that we can predict based on their behaviour.
This study hinges on the following hypotheses: 1) The design of clothes is the most important factor that causes young female Singaporeans to favour certain brands and labels. 2) Young female Singaporeans choose the types of clothing that they wear based on the design of clothes and Western influences. 3) The most evident trend that can be observed is that clothes of international or Western brands are more saleable than local or Asian brands.
Lastly, with regards to this study, ‘consumer behaviour’ refers to the patterns and trends of personal consumption expenditure observed and the various factors that determine or influence the young Singaporeans’ preferences of fashion, while ‘fashion’ refers to clothing and apparel. LITERATURE REVIEW Consumer behaviour is the decision process and physical activity and individuals engage in when evaluating, acquiring, using, or disposing of goods and services, (Loudon, 1988). Through research over the years, many factors have been shown to affect the consumer behaviour of an urban area like Singapore.
These factors include Westernisation. This is evident in the examination of youth fashion, where consumers’ desire to be different is a limited desire of individualising within a trend and to be ‘fashionable’ is to be with the trend and with the crowd. Individuality influenced by Western cultures is then expressed through the way ‘fashionable’ items are configured on one’s own body rather then breaking with the fashionable crowd (Chua, 2000) In recent years, mass-entertainment programmes are seen to be carriers and harbingers of Western ‘liberal’ values, especially that of individualism.
The programmes are deemed to inflict disastrous consequences such as high divorce rates, legal protection for criminals over the rights of crime victims, sexual promiscuity and drug abuse (Chua, 2000). This sense of individualism results in certain trends and consumption patterns when dealing with the fashion industry. For example, in Singapore, there is a local craving for international brand name products and services (Dawson, 2003) Also, the period between teenagehood and marriage, also known as the stage of youth, is a window for unlimited consumption, constrained only by financial circumstance.
Without concerns or burdens for ‘big’ ticket items such as like houses and familial issues, one can spend freely on oneself. Youth are also generally known for excesses in their “yuppy” lifestyles, togged out in ‘designer’ or ‘branded’ clothes and accessories (Chua, 2000), usually of international brands, while the older generation was inclined to suggest frugality by attitude or character in contrast to the profligacy of the new youth. In recent years, popular culture has also taken its toll on consumer behaviour in Singapore. Popular culture’ is a cultural force that transcends cultural boundaries and national borders creating a consumerism of false needs and desires (Dawson, 2003) However such desires for high end clothes and accessories and bound by the financial constraints of most youth. As shown from two newspaper-financed national surveys, Singaporeans as a whole and youths in particular were found to be more responsible about money than the popular image of ‘excessive’ consumption promoted by the media would suggest.
In one survey, it was found that if Singaporeans desired a consumer item but had no money at hand, 67 percent would save up money before making the purchase, 53 percent would forget about buying altogether and no more than 20 percent would borrow from family members, friends or banks to make the purchase or pay by instalments (The New Paper, 15 May 1994). This shows the importance of financial constraints in the consumer behaviour of youths in Singapore throughout the years. In view of past research, the factors that affect the consumer behaviour of Singaporeans are as such, in increasing priority.
Local company or brand, treats employees well, works for benefit of local community, helps charities or good causes, protects environment and most importantly, keeps prices low. (Source: Weber Shandwick Worldwide, The Straits Times, 28 March 2001) METHODOLOGY After refining and confirming my scope for this project, I began my research with a literature review, to better understand my topic and to take a look at the past research that has been made on the topic and to determine its relevance today.
This literature review comprises of websites, journals and books regarding consumer behaviour in particular. It is surprising to me, that few or virtually no research projects were conducted to study the consumer behaviour of young Singaporeans in detail, not to mention dealing with the fashion industry. This provided me with more curiosity to find out more about my topic in the hope of producing results that are relevant and accurate.
The literature review also allowed me to better understand the background of consumer behaviour in Singapore as a whole as well as factors that affect or influence the consumer behaviour of youth in Singapore in the past years. I also conducted a survey on a total of 80 students, aged 13-16 from 4 different secondary schools. The distribution of students by age group is shown in Table 1. The choice of 40 students from two elite schools and 40 students from two government schools ensures that the survey results would be an accurate representation of the female youth in Singapore.
All the youths surveyed were female, as my project is focused on young female Singaporeans. The survey included both quantitative and qualitative elements, making it a more holistic form of research. It is also focused on finding out the factors that influence a female youth’s expenditure on clothing and apparel and what are the brands of clothing and apparel that they are more inclined to patronize. Table 1: Respondents by age group Age Group |Number of female respondents | |13 years |19 | |14 years |21 | |15 years |22 | |16 years |18 | |Total Respondents |80 | DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS Profile of Respondents Table 2 shows the monthly allowances of our respondents fall largely within the $100 to $160 range (33. 75%), with the $161 to $200 range and the $201 to $240 range ranking second and third most common respectively. Table 3 shows the most common source of allowance amongst the respondents is from parents only (86. 5%), with the employment and parents option and the parents and siblings option ranking second and third most common respectively. This shows that all of the respondents obtain their allowance from their parents, just that some respondents have other sources of allowance in addition to that. Table 4 shows the respondents’ percentage of monthly allowance spent on clothing fall largely under the 11% to 25% range, with the 0% to 10% range and 26% to 50% range faring second an third most common respectively. Thus, the statistics show that most of the respondents come from middle class families, obtain their allowance from their parents and spend less than a quarter of their allowance on clothing and apparel. Table 2: Respondents by Monthly Allowance Monthly Allowance |Number of female respondents | |Less than $100 |5 | |$100 to $160 |27 | |$161 to $200 |21 | |$201 to $240 |16 | |More than $240 |11 | |Total |80 | Table 3: Respondents by Source of Allowance |Source of Allowance |Number of female respondents | |Employment |0 |Siblings |0 | |Parents |69 | |Employment and Siblings |1 | |Employment and Parents |6 | |Parents and Siblings |4 | |Total |80 | Table 4: Respondents by Percentage of Monthly Allowance Spent on Clothing Percentage Spent on Clothing |Number of female respondents | |Less than 10% |22 | |11% to 25% |30 | |26% to 50% |16 | |51% to 75% |10 | |More than 75% |4 | |Total |80 | Survey Results The survey results will be discussed based on different questions asked firstly, regarding the factors that affect the respondents choice of brands and secondly, regarding their choice of clothing brands and labels. Below are my findings based on the different questions in the survey. Choice of Brands
Respondents were asked “What affects your choice of brands? Please rank in order of importance. (1 being the most important and 6 being the least important)”. Table 5 shows that the factors that influence young female Singaporeans’ choice of brands are as such, in decreasing priority: Design of clothing ranked 1 by 81% of respondents, Price of clothes, ranked 2 by 47% of the respondents, Prestige of Brand, ranked 3 by 41% of the respondents, Attractive Advertisements and Campaigns, ranked 4 by 38% of the respondents, Peer Pressure, ranked 5 by 51% of the respondents and lastly Cultural Background, ranked 6 by 71% of the respondents. Table 5: Summary Table of Results for Q5 (Responses in %) |Price Of Clothes|Prestige of |Attractive |Peer Pressure |Design of |Cultural Background | | | |Brands |Advertisments and | |clothing | | | | | |Campaigns | | | | |1 |16 |1 |1 |0 |82 |0 | |2 |47 |30 |7 |0 |14 |1 | |3 |26 |41 |24 |7 |3 |0 | |4 |8 |16 |38 |26 |0 |7 | |5 |3 |6 |21 |51 |1 |21 | |6 |0 |6 |9 |16 |0 |71 | The statistics show that the factors that affect the consumer behaviour of young female Singaporeans today no longer correspond with the factors that influence the consumer behaviour of young female Singaporeans in the past. As identified in the literature review, The Straits Times, 28 March 2001 stated that the most influential factor then was the price of clothes. Other actors that were in the list shown in The Straits Times, 28 March 2001, such as benefiting local community, helps charity or good cause and protects the environment are no longer as important in today’s society. The change in priority of the factors seems to be the consequence of Westernisation among the youth in Singapore. In older generations, the people were inclined to suggest that they were ‘frugal’ by character and by tradition, the next generation should follow suit. However, the influx of Western ideals has jeopardised the importance of culture and tradition in Singapore, focusing more on Western ideals such as individualism and liberalism. This may be the reason why the design of clothes, which is dependent on an individual’s personal taste and style has become more important than the cost or price of an item.
In addition, older generations lived in underdeveloped conditions in which ‘poverty’ and ‘frugality’ were indistinguishable phenomenon, thus such mentality of ‘frugality’ as a virtue was only a classic case of ideology formation, ‘naturalising’ the historical response of being ‘frugal’ and making a virtue out of necessity (Chua, 2000). Thus, it is only explanatory that as the younger generations live in more desirable and developed conditions, the standard of living increases and hence, there is less emphasis on the price of clothes and instead, more priority on the design of clothes. The fact that cultural background is the least important factor that affects the young female Singaporeans’ choice of brand further proves that Westernisation and globalization has indeed a great influence on the consumer behaviour of young female Singaporeans.
In the past, youth, female in particular, were deemed to be more conservative and conscious of their own culture, ethnicity and religion and placed high emphasis on the clothes they wear, to adhere to their respective cultural background. However, today, this is not the case. As seen in the statistics, cultural background has not only become the least important, it even has 0% ranked 1. This shows that the female youth in Singapore have become more liberal and individualistic, that culture and tradition is no longer as important as it used to be, with more focus on personal style and taste, all these are the consequences and outcomes of Westernisation. Choice of Clothing Brands and Labels In order to determine their choice of clothing brands and labels, the respondents were asked this question Q6) What clothing brands and labels do you usually patronize?
Firstly, a variety of brands were suggested in answer to Q6) and they are as such, Zara and Pull and Bear of the Inditex Group, Forever 21, Gap, Stussy, Topshop, River Island, New Look, Ralph Lauren, Mango, Desigual, Miss Selfridge, Esprit, Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior, as well as sports brands Adidas, Nike and Puma, which are all European or American brands, with majority of the respondents suggesting Zara, Forever21 and Topshop, together with a minority of 7 out of 80 respondents suggesting answers such as Bossini, Uniqlo, Baleno, Hang Ten, Soda and Giordano which are all Asian brands. In reference to the above statistics, the majority of young female Singaporeans usually patronise European and American brands, such as Zara and Pull and Bear from Spain, Topshop from United Kingdom as well as Forever21 from America.
This is evidence of the Westernisation present among Singapore’s youth today, where young female Singaporeans prefer to patronise Western or international brands as compared to Asian brands. Possible assumptions that can justify this may be because, most international brands cost more than Asian brands, thus the feeling of buying something more expensive gives the female youth a feeling of maturity and status, which is what youth yearn for during their teenage years, making the international brands more appealing to the female youth in Singapore. This phenomenon may also be due to the influence of pop culture among the female youth in Singapore.
Majority of the respondents answered Q6) with labels like Zara, Forever21 and Topshop. This high street brands carry clothing and apparel that are made based on the style of celebrities in both America and the United Kingdom. For example, Kate Moss, a world renowned supermodel popular amongst the female youth in Singapore for her stick thin, size 0 body, collaborated with Topshop to design her own line of clothing that carried her personal taste and style, which made it very popular among female youth in Singapore. The fact that more and more young female Singaporeans are able to afford high street fashion also shows the increase in standards of living in Singapore and how many families are becoming increasingly affluent.
Even though high street fashion is supposedly catered to the masses, it does not come at that cheap a price. For example, the price range of the clothing at Zara range from $25 for a simple t-shirt to $200 for a jacket, which is considerably expensive as compared to the clothing at Hang Ten, which have a price range of $19. 90 to $76. Respondents were also asked the following question Q8) What are some brands you would patronise if money is not an option? The following luxury brands or labels of high fashion were listed, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, the Armani series, including Emporio Armani, Giorgio Armani and Armani Exhchange, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choos Coach, Burberry, YSL, Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade, Marchesa, Oscar de lar Renta.
These brands are all luxury or high fashion brands, which have specialty stores and boutiques, catering to the rich and famous, with astonishing prices ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. No Asian brands are listed in answer to this question, which shows how Western or international brands and designers are more well known for their luxury and status as compared to local or Asian brands and designers. Because of the common stereotype that local brands and designers are inferior to their Western counterparts, many Asian designers are moving to Western countries to build a reputation instead of being based here in Asia. This is unhealthy for the Asian economy and fashion industry, as Asian countries will lose the hope of improving the quality of local fashion and design and earn less revenue as a result of less local boutiques.
In fact, on the contrary to the common stereotype, many Singaporean designers have come up with clothing and apparel as good as Western designers, which include the influx of Asian influences, to produce a very refreshing result, as seen from a few local labels such as Yumumu and aMuse, which have produced high fashion clothing and apparel in recent years. The fact that these high end international brands are commonly known among the female youth in Singapore is evidence that they are more aware of the fashion trends and styles of other countries, in particular, Europe and America, probably through friends, magazines or even the Internet. Their knowledge of these trends and styles may also affect their choice of brands and labels that they usually patronize.
For example, Zara recently showed off their ladies collection with prints similar to that of the Miu Miu Spring Summer Collection 2010, therefore if the female youth in Singapore are aware of the Miu Miu clothing in that collection, then they are more likely to patronize Zara in order to purchase a clothing similar to that of a high fashion label, at a more affordable price, as compared to patronizing an Asian brand such as Hang Ten, which does not have Western styles and trends but focuses more on original design. Origin Of Clothes Respondents were asked the following question, Q9) Are you particular about the origin of your clothes that is whether or not they are designed in Asia or US/Europe? Figure 1 shows that not all the female youth in Singapore are particular about whether their clothes are of European brand or Asian brand and are more concerned with the design and quality of clothes.
Therefore, it has led me to believe that the reason why the female youth are more inclined to patronise Western brands and labels is because the local designers or brands are not given enough publicity, hence the female youth in Singapore are unaware of the good quality of clothing produced or designed by the local designers and rely instead on the common stereotype of inferior products as the only impression of the local fashion industry. Figure 1. [pic] Preference of Origin of Clothes Respondents were also asked the following question, Q10) What is your preference of origin of clothes? Figure 2. shows that the most preferred country is America, with a share of 34 percent. This may be because of the common stereotype and influence from the celebrities from Hollywood and their fashion trends and styles. This influence of pop culture is evident in the other patterns of consumption of the female youth in Singapore dealing with the fashion industry, where Western brands or labels are preferred as compared to Asian brands.
However, the difference in the percentage of respondents who prefer their clothes to be designed in America, the United Kingdom and Asia is minimal, which is an optimistic sign that female youth are starting to open up to the Asian market and fashion industry, instead of only patronizing clothes of international brand and label. Therefore, a possible trend that may be predicted is that more female youth in Singapore will patronize and support the local fashion industry and market, allowing for and encouraging further improvements in the quality of clothes and apparel from the local designers. Figure 2. [pic] CONCLUSION This research study has proven the fact that Westernisation is currently a major influence on the consumer behaviour of female youths in Singapore today.
Firstly, Westernisation has influenced or sparked the change in the factors that affect the young female Singaporeans’ choice of brand and label, by introducing Western ideals of individualism and liberalism to the female youth in Singapore at a young age. These ideals have caused the young female Singaporeans to be more liberal in that they want to have a say in their lives and they show that by expressing who they are through the clothes they wear, hence the design of clothes is of top priority, instead of the price of clothes, which was traditionally the most important factor in the past, as youth in older generations would rather purchase something of less cost and worse design, as compared to something of more cost and better design. Westernisation and ‘pop’ culture has also influenced the female youths in that brand name has become more important. In the past, people in general elieved in the practicality of an object rather than the brand name or prestige of a particular object. However, according to my research, the prestige of a brand has overtaken the importance of cultural background among the young female Singaporeans today. This may be because female youth are more aware of fashion trends in America and Europe, as seen from popular celebrities and singers over the internet or from magazines, thus in a bid to follow these trends, young female Singaporeans would prefer to patronize brands of better reputation, to fit in and follow the fashion trends of the West. Like any other situation, this phenomenon of Westernisation has its pros and cons.
For one, it allows female youth in Singapore to be connected to other parts of the world in their own special way, through the international language of fashion. Westernisation also allows Singapore to keep up and advance with the times, giving local designers or aspiring designers inspiration to work on, to improve the quality of local fashion and apparel. However, Westernisation also causes the female youth in Singapore to become more brand conscious and are willing to spend more on clothing and apparel that are widely accepted by their peers, or clothing that follow Western trends, making the market for cheaper clothing and apparel even smaller. The female youth in Singapore are also slowly losing the essence and importance of culture and tradition in exchange for Western ideals.
This is dangerous because if this goes on, one day Singapore might lose its rich heritage and unique multi cultural society, putting to waste the many years of hard work put in by our forefathers to create our unique and special society. But there is still hope, as more and more young female Singaporeans are starting to accept locally designed clothing and apparel, opening up the local market for the fashion industry. I feel that advertising and marketing companies should make use of this knowledge and begin to publicise the local fashion boutiques and clothing, so as to let more young female Singaporeans be aware of the high quality of fashion produced by our home bred designers, luring them to support and patronise Singapore’s local fashion industry and economy. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank : My mentor, A/P Teofilo C Daquila, for his invaluable guidance an support; • My teacher-supervisor, Ms Ong Lee Hua, for her advice and suggestions; • All my survey respondents for their kind cooperation and help; • My parents for their never ending support.
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