Katie is Mintel’s Senior Retail and eCommerce Analyst. She has experience in researching consumer behavior and
enjoys observing the ever-evolving retail landscape. Prior to Mintel, Katie was a strategist at an agency working on brand
and shopper marketing projects. She has a background in writing and marketing.
The underwear market is poised for growth and rapid change. Consumers are seeking authenticity from underwear brands, looking for them to showcase what real people look like and leave behind unattainable body standards. As brands look toward inclusive sizing, innovative materials, and new use cases, the future for underwear is bright. Consumers are embracing items for both inner and outerwear occasions, showing off their style, personality, and confidence.
But budgets are being crunched by rising prices, forcing consumers to consider what they really want to spend their money on. Brands need to provide value to shoppers during this difficult economic time period, both monetarily (eg sales, bundle options) and non-monetarily (eg durable items, good customer service.) And they can stand out by making underwear fun.
Fun piques interest
While comfort and fit are still priorities, brands can stand out by making underwear fun. Function is still key for Gen Z and Millennials, fun aspects of underwear items are of greater importance to these generations compared to the general population. Younger consumers are seeking more from their underwear: comfort and fit are necessary, but so are style and color. To infuse fun into underwear purchases, brands could offer more colors and styles, as well as lean into customization. Nearly a quarter of consumers are purchasing based on the fun aspects of an item, demonstrating that those aspects shouldn’t be ignored.
Brands can look to offer customization options, particularly for different occasions, like bachelorette festivities or weddings.They can also encourage consumers to leave feedback on social media, or run different polls to see what consumers are interested in next. Getting consumers involved in the development process makes them feel heard and provides them with options that they actually want to see.
Underwear brands can benefit from impulse purchases
While the majority of consumers purchase underwear based on need, there is ample opportunity to drive impulse purchases. Nearly 40% of consumers purchase underwear even if they don’t have a need to replace items.
Underwear brands can look to partner with other clothing brands to offer complete outfit suggestions, or promote underwear items with other items in the same brand family. Knowing that underwear can influence a consumer’s mood, brands can suggest “power outfits” for occasions such as interviews, or the first day on a new job. These suggestions could also take place at checkout (especially online), when consumers are purchasing other clothing. Empowerment can flow from the whole outfit itself, and underwear can be part of these outfit suggestions.
Taking the lead from MeUndies, brands could also lean into seasonality offerings. Seasonal underwear drives exclusivity for the time period, drives urgency, and brings a little more joy to the season. It also creates impulse purchases, as consumers might want the item because of its limited availability, even if they don’t need underwear at the moment.
Younger consumers are open to brand discovery
Younger consumers are less likely to be as brand loyal as older generations, making them a prime target for underwear brands. They are conscious of the brands they are shopping, looking into what the brand stands for and how their own values align (or not) with the brand.
Younger consumers also desire a well-rounded experience from brands and retailers. Brands can offer personalization options, and could also include post-purchase follow-ups to check in with consumers. Follow-ups would enable brands to see if customers need anything adjusted or corrected, and encourage them to leave reviews. It’s also a way to build a relationship with the consumer, and potentially earn their loyalty, communicating with them from the start of their purchase journey all the way through to their next discovery.
What we think
When deciding what underwear to purchase, consumers prioritize comfort and fit. The pandemic accelerated comfort as a priority as consumers stayed home. Even as they enter back into offices and social activities, consumers want to feel comfortable all day long. Style and color will be important factors, but comfort will remain the priority for consumers purchasing underwear.
Additionally, since consumers have been pulling back on spending, underwear brands will need to give consumers a reason to make purchases. Brands can invest in fun colors and styles to perk up at-home living, and also remind consumers that underwear is a necessity, even if the rest of their wardrobe is otherwise sufficient.
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