Apparel product development considerations for US Hispanic women: A study of evaluative criteria and fit preferences of 18-25 year-old females.

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Title: Apparel product development considerations for US Hispanic women: A study of evaluative criteria and fit preferences of 18-25 year-old females.
Author: Newcomb, Elizabeth Anne
Advisors: Dr. Cynthia Istook, Committee Chair
Pamela Banks-Lee, Committee Member
Michelle Jone, Committee Member
Roger Woodard, Committee Member
Abstract: This research is meant to provide information to apparel companies that might help them focus their product development strategies toward Mexican-American females’ needs and preferences. Trade magazines and news media continually report “preferences†that may better be described as stereotypes, and much of the published research related to Hispanic market preferences is often conflicting. Targeted product development processes are not benefiting from much of this information and the industry desperately lacks comprehensive information about the market’s preferences for intrinsic and extrinsic attributes and the importance they play in actual apparel purchase decisions. This research particularly explored these evaluative criteria preferences through a combination of exploratory and descriptive research. Framed by four research objectives (RO), this research first focused on identifying and modeling the full range of factors that might influence preferences for apparel evaluative criteria. Using the model created as part of RO1, RO2 obtained a clear understanding of the use and importance of 20 intrinsic and extrinsic attributes in the purchase of casual pants, tops, skirts, and dresses. Given the importance of the Fit / sizing criteria in the overall aesthetic and functional performance of garments, RO3 delved further into preferences related to this attribute, to obtain an understanding of the market’s fit preferences across a range of casual garments. The effect of physical body, ethnic, and demographic factors in shaping these preferences was also evaluated. Thus, RO1 – RO3 focused on obtaining a better understanding of the apparel evaluative criteria preferences, and specifically the fit preferences, of Mexican-American women in their apparel purchases. Research Objective 4 explored the practical application of the information gathered from RO1 – RO3 to targeted product development processes for this market. An original survey instrument was designed to respond to RO2 – RO4, and was distributed online via SurveyGizmo. The sample was restricted to Mexican-American females, 18-25 years old, from the Southwestern US to confront well-documented variability in the Hispanic market and isolate the effects of the variables of interest in this study. Results from RO1 clearly demonstrated the consumer-oriented factors and external situation-oriented factors that influence consumer preferences for apparel evaluative criteria. The model developed as part of this objective was significant due to its inclusion of apparel-specific considerations that can be used to guide research into apparel evaluative criteria preferences. Research Objective 2 showed that Mexican-American females undergo complex purchase decisions when shopping for apparel, considering that the majority of intrinsic and extrinsic attributes studied were important, if not critical, in apparel purchases. Overall, intrinsic attributes inherent to the product were considered more important and determinant than extrinsic attributes. Minor differences in importance were also observed depending on garment category. However, the concentration of ratings toward the high end of the scale used to assess importance reduced the effect of the physical body, ethnic, and demographic variables on these preferences. Using an original fit preference assessment scale developed for this research, results also indicated that Mexican-American females preferred semi-fitted garments. This preference for a mid-range fit level contradicts some of the stereotypes that exist for the market. Statistical analysis demonstrated the possible effect of physical body characteristics of body shape and size, particularly on respondents’ preferences for fitted and loose garments. Respondents of a larger size were more likely to prefer loosely fitted garments, while respondents of a smaller size and narrower waists were more likely to prefer closely fitted garments. Findings from RO1 – RO3 have direct application in targeted product development processes, specifically in line planning, concept and pattern development, marketing, and sourcing and production. A consideration of the evaluative criteria the market considers important and their associated fit preferences optimizes product development efforts and enables the development of products well-matched to customer needs. Findings of this research also reveal a wide array of future research opportunities, such as further clarification of specific evaluative criteria and fit preferences, application of the research methodology developed for this study to analyze additional target markets, and the modification of sampling strategies and the survey instrument to confront limitations involved in the current research.
Date: 2009-11-16
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Textile Technology Management

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