Fashion clothing involvement, opinion leadership and opinion seeking amongst black generation Y students
Tshabalala, Pulaki Joseph
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Opinion leadership and opinion seeking are central constructs in academic studies of new product innovations. Fashion opinion leaders as those individuals who accelerate the fashion maturity process by legitimising a fashionable trend and influence other consumers to adopt the new innovative style as a replacement for the current accepted one. Consumers who accept information and adopt new style innovations are called opinion seekers and are important to the diffusion of new fashions because they may act on the information they receive from the opinion leaders. In South Africa, the fashion industry, which consists of a combination of the manufacturing, retail, media and recruitment sectors, generates billions of South African rands per annum, and is the fifth largest employment sector in the country. In fact, the fashion and textile industry in South Africa employed approximately 143 000 people in March of 2005, and contributed 12 percent to total manufacturing employment. Post 1994, it was evident that the fashion industry in South Africa underwent a metamorphosis from a protected market where domestic manufacturers dominated to a market that increasingly faced competition from international sources. During the first decade of democracy, the country joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and opened its creative market to international trade. This saw the industry generate sales of R34 billion, of which 9.4 percent was from clothing sales, and with only 18.7 percent of textiles output being exported. This suggests that the South African retailing industry yields substantial value chain power. There appears to be few published research studies focusing on fashion opinion leadership and opinion seeking amongst the black Generation Y students in South Africa. Owing to the importance of the fashion industry sector, together with the ethnic and cultural diversity of Abstract South Africa, the size of the black Generation Y cohort, and the higher social standing and future earning potential of those with a tertiary qualification, it is important to explore black Generation Y students’ fashion opinion leadership/seeking and fashion involvement. In South Africa, the Generation Y cohort is the first generation to grow up in an era of freedom and constantly changing technology – two forces that serve to broaden the divergence between this fascinating generation and previous generations. In 2013, the Generation Y individuals accounted for an estimated 38 percent of the South African population, and members of the black Generation Y accounted for 83 percent of the country’s Generation Y cohort. The primary objective of this study was to investigate fashion clothing involvement, fashion purchase decision involvement, fashion opinion leadership and fashion opinion seeking behaviour amongst South African black Generation Y students. The target population for this study were male and female black undergraduate and postgraduate students, aged between 18 and 24, and enrolled at South African registered public higher education institutions (HEIs). The sampling frame for this study constituted the 23 South African registered public HEIs that existed in 2013. This sampling frame was narrowed down using judgement sampling to two HEI campuses in the Gauteng province – one from a traditional university and one from a university of technology. The Gauteng province was selected over other provinces in the country because it contained the highest percentage of the 23 public HEIs. A self-administered questionnaire was designed based on the scales used in previous studies. Lecturers at each of the two campuses selected to form part of the sample were contacted and asked if they would allow the questionnaire to be administered on their students during lectures. Once permission had been gained, the questionnaires were distributed to students during the scheduled lectures. The questionnaire requested respondents to indicate on a six-point Likert scale the extent of their agreement/disagreement with items designed to measure their fashion clothing involvement, fashion opinion leadership and fashion opinion seeking. In addition, the students were asked to provide certain demographic data. Abstract The findings of this study provide valuable insights into fashion clothing involvement, fashion purchase decision involvement, fashion opinion leadership and fashion opinion seeking behaviour amongst black Generation Y students in South Africa. Findings from this study show that there is a significant relationship between fashion product involvement, fashion purchase involvement, fashion opinion leadership and fashion opinion seeking amongst black Generation Y students, and that females have a significantly higher level of fashion product involvement compared to males. Insights gained from this study will help fashion marketing better understand this cohort’s involvement in fashion, which, in turn, should help them tailor their marketing efforts in such a way as to appeal to this segment in an improved manner.