ECONOMY

Clothiers out to meet new casual trends

The Greek clothing and footwear market has been making an apparent turn toward less expensive, leisure and casual models recently, in response to changing consumer preferences. Market players believe the particularly unfavorable conditions that prevailed in the sector last year effectively stabilized the trend, leading several large retailers to readjust their product mix to meet the rising demand for more «informal» items. The introduction of the euro, price increases in a relatively wide range of products and unfavorable weather conditions limited overall demand and consumers appeared hesitant before the start of the sales season. Most retailers are now hoping for an improvement this year, focusing on the Olympic Games. It is anticipated that volume will pick up during the usually inert month of August and that a surge in the number of foreign visitors will boost the circulation of money in the market. Such an outlook makes for favorable conditions in the market for sporting goods, clothing and shoes. «For one thing, 2004 is linked with the Olympic Games and the sporting spirit in this country, and for another, casual items are being promoted as a modern option for evening outings as well, which enhances the market share of this product category for older age groups seeking alternative modes of dress,» says Elmec Sport’s commercial manager Christos Kalamaridis. Whatever the trend, there is a consensus among retailers that consumers are increasingly seeking better value for their money and appear determined to minimize the cost of their clothing requirements. «The times when people sought brand names at any cost have gone, as negative economic conditions dictate more cautious buying,» says Theodoros Vardas, CEO of Vardas clothiers, stressing that the present trend in Greece follows similar developments abroad, where people have stopped going on spending sprees. «The turn to the casual urban style – or ‘dressed down’ look – means spending less and seeking the best value for money,» Vardas says. Nikos Argyros, general manager of Sprider, which carried out an initial public offering for listing on the bourse this week, says the consumer always wants the best possible but will also seize any opportunity to spend less on the same quality. The trend becomes easily apparent if one looks at the financial statements of the big foreign groups of luxury goods, which have posted sizable drops in profitability in the last two years and are seeking ways of promoting less expensive collections without altering their character. Top foreign fashion magazines are not hesitating to tell their female readers to combine an expensive design shirt with a cheap jacket from a well-known Spanish chain that they would not have mentioned until recently. The trend is not projected to reverse before the end of the decade.