Middle-aged women with money to burn are fashion firms’ top target

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo

Apparel makers, department stores and other fashion-oriented businesses are striving to attract women in their 40s and 50s as they remain active consumers, regardless of economic conditions.

“When we were university students, we had part-time jobs and spent our money on brand-name dresses and bags,” says a 47-year-old planning manager at a company in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district. “Those in our generation have a feeling we’re always the main characters in society.”

After an overseas assignment, the company employee married and now has two children in elementary school. Although busy with both parenting and work, she still pays attention to fashion trends and cosmetics.

“I don’t really jump at fads anymore but buy things that are really valuable,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “I often exchange information with friends in my own generation.”

Apparel maker World Co. is promoting the esche brand of clothing for women in their 40s and 50s through department stores. Promotional activities include leaflets showing staff wearing the brand’s dresses at scenic locales.

Style suggestions by women are welcomed by the firm, contributing to the esche series’ growth.

While the brand features simple designs, one-piece dresses and sweaters that can be worn for both work and travel are especially popular, according to Hiroaki Yamamura, the brand’s manager.

Middle-aged women want “not only products but also information” related to them, Yamamura says. “(They) feel young and don’t care if they’re called girlish.”

Women in their 40s and 50s experienced the bubble economy when they were younger and often work outside the home after getting married and having children. They are usually discriminating consumers.

Department store operator Takashimaya Co. opened a sales floor for working women in that age bracket in collaboration with apparel company Sanyo Shokai Ltd. when it completed refurbishing its Nihonbashi store in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward last September.

Expecting that such women often take business trips, garments on the floor include wrinkle-resistant jackets and shirts.

“We’ve chosen clothing matching women in their prime, regardless of brands,” Takashimaya official says.

Cosmetic makers are also developing high-performance skin care products as aging of the skin gradually becomes more noticeable in women of the age group.

Noevir Co. this year released the Biosign Night Smoothy skin care cream for use by working women before going to bed. Last October, Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. released the Dew Superior Lift Concentrate Cream, which contains a moisture element extracted from a subtropical fruit. The product generated 40 percent more sales than expected.

Takarajimasha Inc., which publishes the GLOW fashion magazine targeting women in their 40s, held fashion, beauty and other events for 1,000 readers last fall.

Yoko Ohira, editor-in-chief of GLOW, says the success of businesses catering to women in their 40s and 50s depends on the firms developing “fashionable and functional” products.