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Target (Market) Practice in Retail & Clothing

How to target to the right consumers…

The process of determining what to buy and sell in the retail industry takes strategy. Hours of analytics, trend-watching, and common-sense are poured into producing and selecting the merchandise that will hopefully be bought by the target market in retail. (Trust us, it’s not as easy as it looks!) In this article, we will take a look at many of the factors involved in determining the product selection for a target market in the retail industry.

First and foremost… what’s a target market?

A target market is a group of customers to which a business aims to sell their merchandise. In this case, we will be looking at the target market of retailers in the apparel and footwear industries.

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s focus on how the target market and their behaviors help determine the product selection…

Here are some of the factors considered when identifying your consumer base:

1. Season/Weather

There are multiple seasons, and thus buying patterns, that occur throughout the year. For example, as the weather begins to get colder, consumers tend to start eyeing and shopping for new jackets and coats. Brands and retailers know this will happen months before and start selecting (and/or producing) specific merchandise to sell to consumers that are appropriate for the current season. They’re not going to stock their stores up with winter coats in the middle of June, because that’s not when customers will be thinking about buying them!

2. Geography

Geography also plays a huge role in selecting product for a specific target audience.

  • Reason 1: The length of seasons

    • In warmer climates, stores stock warmer weather merchandise for a much longer period of time than areas with changing seasons. Consumers in Florida, for example, will shop for warm weather clothing for a longer period than consumers in New Jersey, so stores stock their merchandise accordingly.
  • Reason 2: The ‘trendy’ areas

    • Clothing preferences vary significantly in many different areas of the country and the world so the target market for these clothing stores will vary. There are also some regions that focus more on the current trends in high fashion (think NYC, LA, Milan, Paris, etc). Retailers in these areas then need to constantly stay up-to-date with the upcoming “must-haves”, so that the trendy apparel can be available for their consumers.

3. Demographics

By looking at the demographics of the consumers in specified target markets, manufacturers and retailers are able to understand which groups of people gravitate towards which items. Examples of demographics in target markets could be a person’s age, gender, household income, job role, etc. For example, a 14 year-old boy is not shopping in the same department as a 70 year old retired man, and vice versa.

4. Spending habits

There are also many different spending habits of consumers when they go shopping. There are the shoppers who go right to the sales rack, ones who just can’t wait for the new high fashion line to be released, those who buy in large quantities but at lower prices, etc. All of these spending and shopping habits are factors retailers use to determine how they can make the most profit by targeting shoppers as efficiently and strategically as possible.

5. Special Occasions

Back to school time? Holiday season? Valentine’s Day? There are many occasions where shoppers are purchasing items for other people, for parties, or for themselves. While there are retailers that focus only on specific occasions (like weddings, Halloween, etc), others need to factor these occasions in how the target market will purchase items.


Retailers are not simply stocking their stores with a wide range of merchandise in the off-chance that they will be bought! They are instead looking at their previous sales history and buying patterns to construct the most successful strategies for their inventory selection, as data such as this gives them an idea of who buys what when at what price. Although it takes time, brainpower, hard work, and a bit of luck, determining who your target market is and what are their habits, shopping power, and needs leads to a more accurate product selection and thus a more successful year for retailers. Plus, customers are happy and will come back wanting more!