Fashion and related life cycles 671 The risks inherent in fashion

The cycle of marketing activity begins and ends with consumer needs; as the most urgent set of needs is satisfied in the form of appropriate products, others emerge. In turn, these new needs become of prime importance and create the driving force leading to a desire for further new products. Nowhere is this process more apparent than in the fashion industry; the continual development and introduction of new products into the marketplace are axiomatic to its very existence.

Paradoxically, while an essential undertaking, no aspect of the marketing mix is as uncertain as the introduction and acceptance of new products, particularly when they have a fashion element in them. Implicit in the pluralist nature of today's fashions is the existence of several typical looks or styles in any given season, and the incorporation of many modifications and variations according to the market requirements. The result is that all levels of fashion conscious consumers are able to distinguish between styles that are currently popular and others that belong to previous seasons and are therefore deemed out-of-date. The ability of the individual to observe and react to these phenomena in a negative way ensures the perpetuation of the fashion cycle.

Implicit in the above is that at any moment in time a style considered unfashionable by some may yet be deemed fashionable by others. The net effect of this is that the product's profile will vary over time in terms of sales revenue, profits generated and the target market it appeals to as the fashion becomes more widely accepted and therefore less fashionable. To avoid or at least minimize the risk of failure of new fashions, a method of forecasting the onset of popularity with the rate and extent of possible adoption and diffusion patterns would be invaluable to marketers. Furthermore, the ability to recognize symptoms of decline or failure at an early stage or perceive changes in the nature of the target market during the season could lead to appropriate changes being made to promotion, pricing and distribution policies to maximize sales and profit potential.

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