The performance issues that customers have experienced in recent denim jean offerings may be hurting the competitiveness and sales of jeans. Customer reviews of jeans purchases reveal that fading (23%), shrinking (22%), stretch recovery (19%), wear and tear (16%), and odor (10%) were the top performance issues. Many of these performance problems could have been avoided with proper textile processing, such as the use of better or correctly prepared dyes to avoid fading and heat-setting to avoid stretch recovery issues. Performance issues could be motivating consumers to postpone new jean purchases out of concerns about lower quality options. Nearly 6 in 10 consumers (58%, up significantly from 49% last year) say they buy new jeans for need-based reasons (i.e., their old jeans were worn out). While keeping costs low is important, customer dissatisfaction, hesitation about purchasing, and resolve never to shop at a retailer again because of quality concerns clearly outweigh any marginal savings.
Consumers are more than twice as likely to rate denim jeans negatively if they experience pilling, itching, or durability issues. While durability issues may be linked to improper textile processing, pilling and itching issues may be the result of blending synthetic fibers into jeans. The addition of non-traditional fibers, such as polyester, contribute to the most problematic jean textile issues and when consumers notice less cotton and more synthetic fibers in their jeans, negative ratings increase nearly four times. Consumers indicate that new fibers do not perform as well as cotton in their jeans and that they are getting less value for their money. These factors explain why more than 6 out of 10 consumers say they are bothered retailers would substitute synthetic fibers for cotton in their jeans.
With limited disposable income, today’s pragmatic shoppers are looking to make an investment in their clothing. When jeans fail to meet customers’ expectations, they may respond by purchasing other brands or apparel items. The success of the 2005/2006 premium denim trend, which contributed to significant increases in jean imports, sales, and consumer ownership, demonstrates that apparel shoppers desire better quality jeans and will pay more. Addressing common textile problems to resolve denim jean performance issues and providing the proven quality that cotton-rich jeans deliver will be essential to improve jeans sales and to ensure that jeans remain competitive with other apparel products.