There are 10m women aged between 16 and 40 in the UK. Between them, they generate more than £23bn in retail sales annually, according to TGI. It is an audience brands cannot afford to ignore.
The findings of a recent report, entitled '21st Century Woman' and published in Glamour magazine, suggest that the aspirations and media consumption habits of young women in the UK have changed dramatically since 2006, when the first of these studies was produced.
Simon Kippin, publishing director at Glamour, says these women are a key demographic for advertisers, not only because of their own spending power, but because they are 'brand ambassadors and key influencers among their expansive peer group'. It seems that they relish being seen as 'experts' and become key advocates for the brands they favour, most notably when it comes to fashion and beauty.
On the basis of the research, '21st-century woman' can be defined as follows. Confident and optimistic, by the age of 27 she has had two serious relationships. She plans to vote Tory, but would rather have Stephen Fry than David Cameron as prime minister.
The report suggests that these women have also become more concerned about their quality of life and personal security. Their worries in relation to safety have increased by 22% since 2006, while their anxiety about terrorist attacks has risen by 10%. They are also more focused on their careers, with a 20% increase in concern about this.
The recession has had an impact on their saving and spending behaviour. For example, 34% of those surveyed believed that the downturn has held back their career and 46% were dissatisfied with their current salary. The gender pay gap remains an issue, and the majority (58%) said they believed the glass ceiling still exists.
Financial security also emerged as a major concern; 71% said they were more careful with their money than they were four years ago. For many of these consumers, it appears their love affair with shopping is being funded by credit cards - 52% of respondents said they were in debt.
Focus on quality
Despite the downturn, retail remains an important pastime for 21%. Nonetheless, they are now more likely to evaluate the quality of brands than in 2006. The mantras that less is more and quality beats quantity appear to have hit home and 81% stated that they were more likely to buy a few high-quality items than many cheap ones.
Among the most worrying aspects for brands was the finding that almost 50% of this core market has stopped impulse buying, while 75% will shop around for the best prices. In addition, although 69% of these consumers are buying more online than they were four years ago, when it comes to designer fashion, visiting a department store trumps the internet as the shopping destination of choice.
The research also suggests that the impact of digital media on these consumers has been overstated, with many attaching more importance to traditional channels such as magazines.
It would seem then that any brands targeting this demographic need to go back to the drawing board to ensure their message hits home.