Broadly speaking, fashion can be divided into two separate industries. Firstly there is High Fashion: the big name designers, haute couture clothing, and celebrities that epitomise the fashion looks. High Fashion is only a small part of the fashion world, the majority is the Grass Roots of fashion. This is reality, the normal, and the every day fashion of consumers.
High fashion is trying to sell an ideal of what we should look like, and what we should buy. In order to make more money this ideal changes rapidly and often. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, as this is part of the fashion industry: it’s meant to make money.
One of the problems that grass roots fashion faces is that because this ideal changes so frequently, it becomes more expensive to mass produce garments and get them to the consumers before they go out of style and the ideal changes again.
This is where the bargain store super giants come in. In the UK you have Primark as the market leader for the latest fashion trends at an almost irresistible price (very rarely does an item of clothing breach the £15 mark). According to their own website it can take as little as 6 weeks for the trend to be recognised and then be available in their stores. Primark state that they keep the costs low with bulk buying stock and relying on word-of-mouth advertising.
Primark, or Primarni as it is sometimes referred to, is the go to shop for many young adults in the UK, as the price point is low and young adults have the one of the highest rates of fashion consumption.
Young adults in general, but specifically teenagers and pre teens, are one of the main targets for Primark as a business. Most are at the age of discovering who they are and how they fit in the world, they have a disposable but quite limited income – pocket money or part time jobs, and no major expenditure as often living with parents while they are at school. Another major attraction of Primark is that because of the low prices, it’s possible to create whole looks and wardrobes for a fraction of the price of their style competitors in the UK (H&M, Topshop, River Island, to name a few). This ability to purchase a large quantity of clothes serves to make these young shoppers feel more independent, which in turn makes them feel even more connected to the experience as learning independence and doing things without parental controls is a big part of growing up.
Due to the mass production of styles and garments, at a price a lot of teenagers can afford, means that whole groups of friends wear similar clothes from the same shop, creating their own high street trends. This means that Primark is effectively creating their own trend, which attracts more consumers due to the availability and the low cost of the products.
Of course this isn’t to say that the youth of the UK is blindly purchasing whatever is put in front of them, driven only by consumer need. The way clothing shops are accessed in the UK market has part to play in how teenagers shop.
Almost all clothing shops in the UK will be found on the high street of the town or city, much like Oxford Street in London. This high street may have stemmed from the original town centre, sometimes dating back hundreds of years. These high streets are often pedestrian only areas with good public transport links. Put this together, and you can see that teenagers often go for shopping trips with friends, but without adults as they can make their own way there. Once at the high street, it is much like visiting a mall: all the shops are close together, with food and restrooms nearby.
These unsupervised trips with friends are pivotal moments for the individuals involved. It helps them to build their look and identity based on the opinions of the people they are with. These opinions are the most important to them, as they affect their ability to belong and connect with the people they want to. One of the most fundamental parts of growing up is learning how to be part of society and to feel connected. What Primark is enabling is a way for these teenagers to feel like they belong, whilst also securing a large number of repeat customers.