An expanding market : Asian mothers-to-be

M.E. Faust, S. Christoffersen, Woo Kyung Shin, Jeanne Tan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Nowadays many fashion marketers search for specific niches in emerging countries in the hope of identifying needs to fulfil. For any potential niche, they scrutinize demographic and psychographic variables to determine preferences in style and elements of the buying decision process. This study classifies Asian mothers-to-be as a specific target market. It highlights criteria considered important throughout the purchasing process for maternity-wear. Because body size/shape changes rapidly during pregnancy, it identifies the needs for particular garments during precise periods of pregnancy. Additionally the uniqueness of the Asian culture influences maternity-wear preferences.||This paper provides insights on: when and what type of maternity-wear is wanted/needed; what type of marketing channels purchasers rely on; where they purchase new garments or obtain previously owned garments; and which variables are important to the purchasing decision: price, brand, quality, etc. We confirm Asian mothers-to-be as an important and growing niche for fashion merchandisers and marketers to consider.||Day (1990) defines a target market as a group of homogenous people, identifiable so that they can be reached; durable so that profit can be realized before the characteristics of the segment disappears; measurable in terms of sales volume and rate of growth; substantial to justify the allocation of resources to serve the segments; and sufficiently distinctive in behavior in the marketplace. Based on this description, Asian mothers-to-be constitute a specific and never ending target market of its own.||The questions that arise are: How do Asian women manage the acquisition of garments when they become pregnant and their body morphology and shape changes so radically? When do they start to search for maternity-wear? What type of garments, style and fabrics are Asian mothers-to-be looking for? How do they discover what to look for? Where do they prefer to shop for these maternity clothes (specialty or department stores, vintage stores or borrowing pre-owned clothes)? How well their needs are being met?||Our results indicate that the majority of Asian mothers-to-be sampled do procure new garments during their pregnancy. Furthermore, close to 60% need new shoes. The need for a new bra appears during the first trimester for 40% of our sample, which validates the literature. Surprisingly the same percentage mentions the need for new panties and pants as early as in the first trimester, which is not commonly known, based on the literature reviewed. According to our results more than fifty percent (53%) of our sample rely on word-of-mouth regarding where to find maternity wear, seeking information from their family and friends. Only 30% rely on advertising found in leaflets, magazines or billboards.||For specific, fitted, intimate garments such as bras, panties and tummy belt, most of our respondents (52%, 47% and 60% respectively), like to purchase these items at maternity stores. For the less fitted items or clothes less specific to pregnancy, a respectable percentage purchases them through department stores. For clothes that aren’t specific to maternity such as sleepwear and socks, a substantial percentage (30%) is bought from informal markets: the ubiquitous and vibrant outside markets of China. Designer stores and online retailers are barely utilized by our respondents. The majority state they prefer to buy new clothes instead of buying vintage clothes or wearing borrowed clothes, although they don’t have a negative perception of vintage maternity clothes.||The most important criterion in the purchasing decision is size and fit. Women either stated it was an extremely important criterion (55%) or an important criterion (35%). This is followed by the quality and the price. According to our results, women of our sample are either neutral or pay little attention to criteria such as the brand, the trend and the salesperson’s opinion.||When asked to rate each garment separately for size and fit (bra, panties, pants, blouses, one-piece dress, sleepwear, sportswear, jeans, socks and tummy belt), the item that had the poorest fit appreciation is the one piece dress (44% being dissatisfied) followed by the jeans (16%). Broadly, our study reveals that Asian mothers-to-be prefer the one piece dress to separates, whether a top and pant or top and skirt.||Additionally, there is a preference for natural textiles/fabrics such as cotton suitable to the warm, humid Hong Kong climate and jersey knit or stretchy material (over 50%), suitable for pregnancy.||Increasingly, women continue to work during pregnancy and practice activities such as yoga and swimming. Asian mothers-to-be need garments that ‘fit’ professional and leisure activities; this research identifies the opportunities for the apparel industry, from manufacturers, to retailers and merchandisers, to expand into this target market.||When the one child policy expires in 2015, one can expect the maternity market in China to expand for two reasons. Families will likely choose to have more than one child and rising incomes will allow the mothers-to-be to purchase more maternity clothing worthy of the family lineage. Even a small percentage change, given the very large population base, will reward the apparel industry for its attention to this target market. The successful firms will produce the right product, at the right time, with the right styling and fit for this distinctive market.||This research serves as a starting point to investigate Asian women’s perception of their morphology’s transformation during pregnancy and their need and appreciation for apparel offered on the market. Aesthetics and fit, price, brand, etc. contribute importantly to the purchasing decision; if properly understood, the consumer (in this case pregnant Asian women) can help to clarify the most important factors affecting their purchase decisions. A pilot test group plus a convenient sample of 203 pregnant or previously pregnant women in one specific area, Hong Kong, yields results which could easily be replicated on a larger scale or in another geographic area. We seek greater clarification on which type of activities/sports are practiced by pregnant women in order to correlate activity/sports practiced with the sportswear wearability and fit, for example, the need for and satisfaction with maternity bathing suits.||To the extent that manufacturers identify and address regional differences, the greater the consumer satisfaction and resulting business success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Global Fashion Marketing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Asian
  • Target market
  • Niche
  • Maternity wear
  • Apparel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Marketing
  • Strategy and Management
  • Cultural Studies


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