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Up Close: In Conversation with NPD Group’s Beth Goldstein

Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Beth Goldstein, executive director, industry analyst, accessories and footwear at market researcher NPD Group, discusses why there is no typical customer and the growing capabilities for analyzing consumer behavior.

Beth Goldstein NPD
Beth Goldstein, executive director, industry analyst, accessories and footwear at NPD Group Courtesy

Name: Beth Goldstein

Title: executive director, industry analyst, accessories and footwear

Company: NPD Group

Which other industry has the best handle on the retail experience? What can fashion learn?

No industry has been immune to the challenges retail has faced with declining store traffic, but I think the broader fashion industry can learn from some examples of digital native brands across industries that are opening stores. They tend to be more welcoming, encourage more interaction with the product and often have simple experiential elements like a photo booth or coloring station for kids, and have more connection to their online experience. Yes, a smaller, direct-to-consumer brand can be more nimble, but I think major retailers can learn from these concepts as well.

Do you consider yourself a typical consumer? 

I’m not sure if a “typical” consumer really exists. We have to put consumers into groups to detect trends, but there are just so many nuances and differing priorities out there, even among consumers that appear to be similar based on key metrics like age, income, etc. That’s why, when possible, we need to look deeper.

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As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Great product is a must, but I also need a pleasant, easy and efficient experience, from purchase, to returns, to issue resolution. We are seeing these as popular sentiments among consumers. They are simple concepts but not easy ones. My spend is pretty concentrated at about three to four retailers.

What are your typical work and weekend uniforms?

I’m a pretty casual person, as appropriate for work, but on the weekends I’ve fully embraced the athleisure trend. And I love camo.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

Although it was a dressier era, I love the ‘60s. I found Mad Men to be so visually appealing from both a fashion and design perspective.

Who’s your style icon?

Julia Roberts. That Stella McCartney one-shoulder pants/dress ensemble that she wore to the 2019 Golden Globes was just amazing. I loved the juxtaposition between men’s wear and women’s wear, casual and dress. And when just out running errands she looks amazing, too.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the past year?

Investment in thought leadership. Our senior management has created programs that bring the analysts together from all the industries we track so we can learn from each other and better understand the broader trends that are impacting consumer spending. This helps us to provide an elevated level of insights to our clients. For example, consumers’ interest in health and wellness is impacting purchasing across industries, such as food, small appliances, beauty, books and fashion. Their desire for products that make life easier and/or offer convenience is another one that is driving sales in many categories.

What should be the fashion industry’s top priority now?

Solving the waste issue; there is just too much “stuff” out there, with no large-scale recycling capabilities at this time. The growth of resale options has helped, but I think the resellers will soon face a glut of product if they aren’t at that point already.

What keeps you up at night?

Aside from the clanging steam pipes in my NYC apartment, it’s how the fashion industry will continue to adapt to how consumers want to shop, what they want to wear and what they care about. And that by the time brands and retailers position themselves for today’s consumer, it will be time for tomorrow’s. This takes a level of agility that the industry is not used to.

What makes you most optimistic?

The fact that the pace of innovation is increasing, and that brands and retailers are really starting to take action to make the world a better place for our kids.

Tell us about your company’s latest service:

Checkout, which tracks consumer purchasing via their actual receipts, allows us to analyze consumer behavior over time. In addition to tracking purchasing in-store and online, we can get to a host of buyer analytics. For example, we can see cross-purchasing across brands and retailers which, in this volatile environment, is very valuable as it can help us predict where consumers will shop if a retailer closes doors or shutters completely. We can also help brands and retailers understand how to maximize their opportunity with their most valuable customers.