Fashion Industry Research On A Shoestring

A lot of people don’t realize this (even some of our students), but despite consistent top ranking for its fashion degree programs, the Fashion Institute of Technology is a state school that is operating on a community college budget.  This fact makes me rather proud that the FIT Library has the support of administration to allocate funds for top-notch, often pricey resources in the the areas of market research, industry intelligence and trend forecasting.

That being said, however, being in-the-know about free, quality information resources is always a plus.  For one thing, these are resources that can be recommended to former students who as alumni no longer have access to premium library databases. For another, it will help you make the most of your own budget.  Here are some of my favorites. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

Company/Industry Research

Yahoo Finance – What if you suddenly no longer had access to Hoovers?  Well, while Yahoo Finance lacks the in-depth analysis that you would be getting  from the folks at Dun & Bradstreet, it does mimic the structure and therefore gets you to information on everything from company financials to industry overviews.
Business of Fashion (registration required for full access)- What if you suddenly had to drop WWD (god forbid)!? what blog would you turn to get market and retail intelligence, as well as a global view?  For me, it’s BOF, with its well-written, insightful articles, data-graphics and interviews.  WWD.com still covers about as much in one day as you will find in a few weeks of BOF postings, but BOF’s quality can’t be beat. A very close runner-up would be Racked.com, especially as it provides city level coverage of Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco.
National Retail Association (free) website & Retail Insight Center (requires free registration)  –  Although this website is not exclusively focused on the apparel sector of the retail industry, it does provide very current insights to trends in the apparel sector, mobile shopping, consumer spending, merchandising and store operations. If you want, you can register (for free) to gain access to their “Retail Insight Center” which provides users with downloadable, customizable, interactive charts and graphs.

Consumer Research (United States)

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Expenditure Survey – What if you no longer had access to your marketing and consumer demographics reports?  Well at least you still have access to the mother of them all.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey is one of the main sources of data for subscription consumer and market research products like Mintel or Demographics Now.  The BLS comes out with Annual and Quarterly Reports and information can be found at a regional level, too.  If you want information on a more specific category or geographic level, however, you have to download huge data sets and analyze them on your own – good luck!
Nielsen – My Best Segments –Demographics are not the only thing you should be examining when it comes to understanding your customer.  Psychographics tell you about lifestyle and life-stage consumer behaviors and trends.  Nielsen provides three psychographic views, known as PRIZM®  P$YCLE®  and ConneXions®, each with their own segmentation.  A free Zip Code look up will reveal the psychographic segments  of a particular area.  Unfortunately, however, you are not able to perform a reverse search, making it nearly impossible to identify similar regions.

Sourcing 

Source4Style –Source4Style is a fantastic service that enables you to discover, search and directly source fabrics for fashion and interiors.  Features include virtual showroom tours, the ability to limit your search by sustainability factors, read-to-ship swatches, and a tool for creating and sourcing your own custom textile.  Registration is free – swatch delivery and sourcing are not, but discounts can be arranged for student accounts.
Fibre2Fashion – Fibre2Fashion is busy site and one of the largest B2B platforms, serving a broad range of international textile-apparel interests.  Registration is required to post as a buyer or seller and Basic Membership is free. Premium and Corporate Memberships give you access to articles and market intelligence reports.

Forecasting and Runway Analysis

WGSN Blogs – Like the subscription service, the WGSN blogs cover the gamut of fashion design and retail topics. Each gets updated on a daily or weekly basis with unique content (i.e. stories rarely reposted across the blogs), and concise, newsy coverage.  Missing from the blogs, however, is the in-depth analysis.  Also, note-worthy for visual research would be the WGSN Tumblr site.
Style.com – For runway analysis and history, I really don’t think much surpasses Style.com’s free coverage. Features include same-day runway slide shows from Fashion Weeks across the globe, runway archives going back to 2000, trend analysis reports and coverage of street fashion and cultural events.  
Trend TabletThe blog of renown author and trend forecaster, Lidewij Edelkoort, Trend Tablet is a source for rich visual and textual content on mega-trends in design direction. Links between art, technology, raw materials and consumer culture are explored and displayed with beauty and simplicity.

Honorable Mentions

Sourcing Journal and PantoneView – Neither of these services are free, but both offer 30-day free trials and low-cost monthly and yearly subscriptions for individuals.  For not much more than the price of a textbook, students (and alumni) can receive access to quality industry level intelligence and reports from trusted sources.

I would love to hear what free or low-cost services you turn to or recommend to your library users.  Comments please!

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