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Study: Denim Brands and Consumers Favor Quality Over Low Price

When it comes to buying denim, suppliers, retailers and consumers are in search of many of the same qualities.

A trio of new studies by German textile publication TextilWirtschaft reveal how quality, innovation and customer service is driving the majority of purchasing decisions by both vendors and consumers.

TextilWirtschaft senior sales manager Udo Fischer broke the denim industry down by numbers at Bluezone in Munich, Germany Tuesday, sharing insights from the 2018 surveys.

Here’s a look at what the industry is saying.

What brands say about mills…

Quality, price, service and a steady flow of innovations are among the top four traits denim brands look for in mill partnerships. And denim mills living up to their expectations. Of the 208 brands surveyed, 88 percent said they were “very happy” with the collaboration they have with their denim weavers.

Unsurprisingly, brands favor mills with lineages of quality, service and innovation. Candiani, Tejidos Royo, Orta, Isko and Calik ranked among the brands’ top five mills to work with.

However, sustainability is becoming increasingly important to denim brands. Eighty-three percent of brands said if possible, they pay attention to social and environmental factors when selecting denim fabrics. Recycled denim is especially an area of growing importance, with 51 percent of brands naming it as an important topic to their company, up from 26 percent in 2015.

And brands see their sustainable consumer base growing, albeit slowly. Brands said they believe that one in three consumers is willing to pay a “significantly higher price” for denim made in a sustainable production—a small but important improvement from 2015 when brands believed one in four customers would pay up.

Why do brands cut ties with mills? Bad quality, delivery delays, unreliability, high prices and lack of sustainability are among the reasons Fischer noted, followed by high minimum orders, lack of innovation and bad service.

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What retailers say about brands…

The mid-tier market is proving to be a golden opportunity for retailers.

While the majority of retailers surveyed said they anticipate the quantity of women’s jeans in the German market to decline 34 percent by 2020 (men’s is expected to increase 33 percent), they expect better turnover in the 71-90 euros ($81-$102) and 91-110 euros ($103-$125) price ranges.

Transparency and function are part of the package. Thirty percent of retailers believe labels that name the fabric producer can serve as an argument for higher prices. Meanwhile, 61 percent said jeans boasting functional features can command “far higher prices.”

Retailers expect women’s skinny jeans and straight fits to gain momentum, as well as cropped jeans and high-waisted jeans. However, they have little faith in destroyed/repaired, bleached or raw denim for women and expect to see these styles decline more than 30 percent by 2020.

Women’s slim fits are also slowing down, but the opposite can be said about the cut for men. Fischer said retailers believe in men’s slim fits and tapered fits. And 36 percent expect to see loose jeans come back as part of the ongoing ’80s and ’90s revival in fashion. Retailers see raw denim and destroyed/repaired jeans decreasing in men’s too, but light denim is flexing some muscle, poised to increase 50 percent by 2020.

What consumers say about denim…

German consumers love their jeans: 60 percent of 1,000 women surveyed and 56 percent of the 1,000 surveyed men said jeans are their favorite piece of clothing. However, 70 percent of women and 53 percent of men said they have a problem finding jeans that fit well.

Consumers ranked fit, comfort, price and quality as the most important aspects of buying jeans. Price was notably ranked fifth, Fischer said, which should bode well for retailers and brands aiming for a higher price point.

That’s not to say they don’t enjoy a bargain. Eighty percent of women and 73 percent of men said they buy jeans at reduced prices or during clearances.

Women prove to be less focused on brands than men. In fact, 76 percent of women said jeans from retailers like H&M and Zara “are just as cool” as those from denim pure players. But both genders love their Levi’s, ranking the denim stalwart as their favorite jeans brand.