Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

Emerald Article: Fashion marketing to women in Kazakhstan Patrick Low, Ina Freeman

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To cite this document: Patrick Low, Ina Freeman, (2007),"Fashion marketing to women in Kazakhstan", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 11 Iss: 1 pp. 41 - 55 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13612020710734391 Downloaded on: 15-05-2012 References: This document contains references to 35 other documents To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com This document has been downloaded 3079 times.

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ACADEMIC PAPER

Fashion marketing to women in Kazakhstan
Patrick Low
University of South Australia, Singapore, and

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Ina Freeman
Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, Mississippi, USA
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore consumer behavior regarding women’s decisions concerning fashion in the emerging marketing of Kazakhstan. Design/methodology/approach – Literature review formed the basis of the questions asked to several focus groups and in-depth interviews of 48 Kazakhs representing the average age of Kazakhstan. The approach of the paper is exploratory as there is not a lot of research concerning the Kazakhstani marketplace. Findings – Kazakhstani women are becoming aware of their rights to choose clothing and location of purchase. They expect to be treated with respect. The women are value conscious, thinking brand names enhance the value of clothing and will shop sales regardless of the actual discount. Kazakhstani women are extremely fashion conscious and look to the media for current fashions. They are wary of anything coming out of China. There are five market segments into which these women can be divided. Research limitations/implications – The study was done in Almaty and may not reflect people outside urban Kazakhstan. Practical implications – Kazakhstan is opening as a marketplace. In order to understand how to market in Kazakhstan, firms must understand what is wanted and this paper begins this exploration. Originality/value – This market is unexplored both academically and by many clothing manufacturers. This market is opening and thus information concerning the marketplace is necessary. Keywords Consumer behavior, Consumer research, Women, Kazakhstan, Fashion, Market segmentation Paper type Research paper

Introduction The setting of this paper is Kazakhstan, one of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of independent states formerly dominated by the USSR, and is comprised of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Republic of Georgia, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. It is located in Central Asia with an area approximately 28 percent the size of the USA but with only slightly more than 5 percent of the population (estimated in July 2005 at 15,185,844 (CIA Factbook, 2005)). Upon the liberation of Kazakhstan, Russia withdrew fiscal, social, and other forms of support, leaving the nation to find its own way in the world after over 100 years of Russian occupation and over 70 years of
Elmira Ibrayeva assisted as interpreter and group facilitator.

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management Vol. 11 No. 1, 2007 pp. 41-55 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1361-2026 DOI 10.1108/13612020710734391

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indoctrination that portrayed the western world negatively. Today, Kazakhstan is a country of contradictions: governmental wealth from huge oil reserves in the western regions yet government acceptance of charitable goods and services from other nations who are concerned about average income of approximately $8,000 USD per year in an economy where rents on new apartments can be as high as $3,000 USD per month. This paper identifies the several market segments within the target market of primarily women in the emerging economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Women comprise 51.4 percent of Kazakhstan’s population (Romanenko, 2004, p. 2) representing a significant market. To define the segments, the following questions were posed to focus groups. Discussion questions asked of the women in the focus groups included but were not limited to: . Who do you think influences your clothing or fashion purchases? (Spouses/peers/parents/reference groups/magazines/television). . What is the modality of your purchase, i.e. the internet, in-person, catalogue, etc.? . How often do you buy? . Are your clothing purchases affected by your moods and emotions? . Who accompanies you to you buy your clothes? . How do brand names affect your clothes’ or fashion purchases? . How do retailers affect your clothes’ or fashion purchases? . What is your perception of clothes made outside Kazakhstan? . How do promotions or sales affect your buying decisions? . Are you influenced by the clothes celebrities wear? We focus upon how fashion is marketed to women and what the results of these policies are, with particular emphasis upon consumer behaviour trends, market segmentation, and how women’s increased educational levels influence consumption patterns. This research adds value to the area of marketing in an emerging market due to the increasing number of women with increased disposable income (Ibrayeva and Low, 2004). In recognizing women as key to the household financial decisions, marketers need to reach out and market to women, especially working women. One women in this study’s focus group stated fashion marketing entailed “things that affect the hearts of women most of all!” (focus group participant). Literature review Previous studies have indicated women’s role in purchasing has been aided by their increasing role in household financial decision making (Pastore, 1998), a fact endorsing the importance of fashion marketing to women. In fact, one American study shows that while men shop, women actually buy (Pastore, 1998). In Kazakhstan, women in particular have not fared well since independence in 1991. Women’s wages in comparison to men’s wages were 58.1 percent in 1991 compared to 48.1 percent in 2002 while the number of women involved in higher education increased by 8 percent. A slightly greater percentage of women than men have higher or tertiary education (1.26 women to men in 2001) yet women account for only 34

percent of the managerial workforce, earning only 70 percent of what men earn, and continue to live within a male-dominated culture (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, 2001). As a nation, Kazakhstan is geographically remote, yet bordered by politically significant countries such as China and Russia; and contains severely ecologically damaged sites. The latter includes the Caspian Sea (Earthvision Reports, 1998, web site www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/53/049.html), the sites of Soviet nuclear testing in eastern Kazakhstan at Semipalatinsk and in the west by Azgir and Astrakhan (Greenpeace, 1996 web site). Kazakhstan became an independent nation in 1991, but continued to be ruled by N. Nazarbayev, a Soviet sympathizer who was installed by the USSR in 1989 (Infoplease, n.d.). His grip on power has allowed him to pass legislation extending his term in office and disqualify electoral opponents, thus, effectively stopping any threat to his government for almost seven years (information available at: www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0036971.html (accessed: 4 April, 2005)); censoring the press which is largely controlled by his daughter Dariga (Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Nursultan Nazarbayev web site, available at: http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Nursultan_ Nazarbayev (retrieved 15 March, 2005)); and, otherwise slowing the democratization of the country. The ethnic composition of Kazakhstan is 53.4 percent Kazakh, a nationality subdivided into three hordes or tribes; 30 percent Russian being subdivided into four different Cossack groups (Semirek, Uralsk, Orenburg, and Siberian); and the remaining 16.6 percent comprised of Ukrainian, Uzbek, German, Tatar, Uygur, and others, none of which are more than 4 percent individually (George, 2001). Many of the influences of the trade route dubbed “The Silk Road” have been destroyed in the century of Russian domination, leaving instead a legacy of mistrust and suspicion for anything Chinese (Freeman and Robertson, 2006). The continuing psychological dependence of Kazakhstan upon Russia is seen in the fact only 64.9 percent of the population speaks the national language of Kazak while 95 percent of the population speaks Russian (CIA Factbook). This dependence is lessening with the passage of time and the manoeuvrings of the government, such as the law demanding all government employees be fluent in Kazak. This burgeoning sense of independence is noted in the number of Kazakhstani fashion designers and the adoption of fashion trends not seen on the streets of Moscow. Some of these trends include the adoption of four-inch stiletto heels as a standard for women and extreme pointed toes on the shoes of men and women. Other fashion trends particular to the region include the proliferation of multiple colors in all types of male and female attire, almost excluding the navy and black suits that are the prevalent office uniform within North America. These fashion statements are prevalent in the Kazakhstani society, determined by whether or not the individual was raised in Kazakhstan and regardless of the individual’s traditional ethnicity. Those who are new to the country often do not immediately adopt these fashions whereas those who were raised in the country see this as simply “the fashion”. Whereas those in North America have a tendency to differentiate ethnically (Garbato, 2005), Kazakhstan fashion is defined by the country, not the individual’s ethnicity. Marketers within this country, as in the western world, must be cognizant of and responsive to gender differences (Bay, 2004) drawing into question marketers’ tendency to stereotype women. Some 91 percent of women say advertisers do not

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understand women and 58 percent of women are annoyed by marketers’ approaches (Bay, 2004, p. 13). This finding supports Kotler’s (1997) concept of “good marketing” that supports the need for a level of communication between the purchaser and the product and/or service provider while evidencing the fact marketers have not been successful in reaching this level of communication. In order to create a customer, the product and/or service must be instantaneously recognized as fulfilling the woman’s perceived needs. This can be exemplified in the “visible” marketing approach wherein the product is portrayed as specifically for women, such as some cosmetic products and clothing (Learned, 2004, p. 57). Experiential marketing, wherein consumers interact with a product, service, or brand face to face, is also said to be especially effective with women and younger consumers (Primedia Business Magazines, 2004). Experiential marketing is noted to produce quick results thus increasing the return on investments including the enhanced brand perception (Shuler, 2004). In the USA women are noted to spend an average of 14 to 15 minutes at a particular brand’s booth or kiosk where experiential marketing is prevalent, subject to where it is located. Women spend a longer period of time at booths and kiosks in shopping malls and slightly shorter time at fairs and public exhibitions (Primedia Business, 2004). Experiential marketing is particularly effective with women in the areas of household, personal, and healthcare products and services (Shuler, 2004) and, interestingly within this study, in some emerging markets (Blasor, 2004). There is little research on the Kazakhstani marketplace, and less on the emergence of women as a significant market determiner in Kazakhstan based upon their representative numbers in the workplace. In view of this deficiency, the current study examined the marketing of fashion to Kazakhstani women in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan. Research methodology This research utilized both focus groups (“talk and probe”) (Low, 2002, p. 60) and in-depth interviews with local Kazakhs. As Hussey and Hussey argue “Focus groups are normally associated with a phenomenological methodology. Such a methodology is used to gather data relating to the feelings and opinions of a group of people who are involved in a common situation” (Hussey and Hussey, 1997, p. 155). They are commonly used in marketing-research contexts (Morgan, 2002). As suggested by Krueger (1994), this research considered the use of qualifiers such as: “the prevalent feeling was that”, “a few participants strongly felt” or even “most participants agreed”. The study was conducted in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan and currently a business and cultural centre of Kazakhstan. Because Almaty is the largest and most globally connected city within Kazakhstan, it leads fashion trends followed and imitated by other areas in Kazakhstan. Method used There were 12 members in each of four focus groups held from 21 August to 31 October 2005. As a rule, three or four focus group sessions are usually sufficient to determine reliability and validity (Aaker and Day, 1986, p. 124). The group members were selected randomly among university students, entrepreneurs (small business-owners), and employees of local and international companies, working in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The group members self-selected participation, representing

different ages and status groups. This helped generate a more generalized view of the Kazakhstani societal trends. The majority of the group members were relatively young, coming from families earning above poverty line income. This population is representative of the younger population (the median age of Kazakhstan is 28.52 (CIA Factbook)), upwardly mobile, and more open to new ideas and new fashion trends. Description of the focus group There were 48 members, with 27 females and 21 males as the total sample size. The sex ratio of females to males in Kazakhstan between the ages of 15 and 64 is 0.96 (CIA Factbook) and the sex ratio of the group members is 0.77. The nationality of the participants as compared with the 2005 statistics from the CIA Factbook is 30 Kazakhs (62.5 percent compared to 53.4 percent), ten Russians (20.8 percent compared to 30 percent), five Koreans, two Tatars, and one Uygur (jointly 16.7 percent compared to 8.0 percent). The focus group members were of the younger generation (age: 19 to 39 years old), who are living in Almaty although they came from other Kazakhstani cities such as Astana, Shymkent, and Kzyl-Orda. The participants are students or employees of companies (both local and international) with an income reflecting their status, but most often above the poverty line. Most can be characterized as career oriented, ambitious, and fashion conscious. Research findings, analysis, and discussion The following is a summary of the findings from the focus groups. First is a summary of the answers to the specific questions posed to the groups, yielding majority opinions. Following this, we summarize other topics that arose during these discussions that are relevant and pertinent to this study. Women’s fashion and consumer behaviour The study was designed around ten questions posed to the focus group members. In the following section, the answers to these specific questions are based on the perceptions of the majority (at least 83 percent). Q. Who do you think influences your clothing or fashion purchases? (Spouses/peers/parents/reference groups/magazines/television)

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Husbands, friends, and relatives were most frequently noted as influencing the women in the focus groups (mentioned 40 times). When the influence of the mass media was investigated, women prefer looking for new things in magazines (mentioned 34 times). Peers have the most influence on teenagers, with mimicry and “following along” prevalent. It was noted new products or goods introduced into a group of teenagers by one, frequently results in others in the group purchasing or requesting their parents to purchase the same or similar products or goods. Teens were noted to spend more time watching television, reading magazines especially fashion magazines, and looking at posters and street ads than other generations. Thus teens may be more influenced by mass media than other age groupings. Q. What is the modality of your purchase, i.e. the internet, in-person, catalogue? The study participants cite people who work and are usually very busy resulting in little time for shopping. Thus, personal purchasing may be rushed. “They don’t have

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the time to choose, looking for cheaper items with the same quality; they buy clothes if it fits them” (mentioned 28 times). In contrast, people who do not have stable jobs have more free time to shop, allowing them to be more selective in clothing purchases. The lack of money was introduced as the primary reason these people look for sales or bargains. This study verifies “internet purchases are not popular”; “there is little trust in the giving of credit numbers or details”; “in matters of taste, people prefer to see and buy the clothing items themselves” (focus groups’ input; mentioned 20 times). This validates that individual on-line purchasing is not preferable or common within Kazakhstan and also indicates the lack of trust prevalent in the society. It may also validate the importance of experiential marketing in this society. The internet does not allow for the consumer to “experience” the product, resulting in less popularity. The Kazakhstani e-market for individual consumers is not large due to a number of other factors such as the increased cost of computers due to governmental surcharges; the known bribery and corruption of government, customs, and police officials making importing goods expensive; and the absence of any form of reliable postal service. For many of the participants, tapping into the fashion world on the net was a source of ideas, but not a shopping destination. This may develop in the future, but in the current political climate, it is not a realistic target. Q. How often do you buy?

The focus group stated Kazakhstani people prefer buying new clothes every month (85 percent of the focus group members mentioned this; mentioned 45 times), with women buying every week. Fashionable purchases include new mobile phones and accessories, with the group citing most people will change their mobile phone every six months or so. The group stated men do not like shopping whereas women frequently find pleasure in shopping for and purchasing clothes. “The more I spend the happier I am – at least at that moment” (mentioned ten times). An interesting statement was that shopping relieves stress and stimulates emotions for many women, potentially being used as a socially acceptable form of therapy. Q. Who accompanies you to buy clothes?

Not unexpectedly given the preference for shopping stated before, women prefer go shopping with female friends, rarely with husbands because women felt their spouses would attempt to hurry their shopping, not allowing them time to browse. The group stated this was annoying, thus negating their personal joy of shopping (mentioned 34 times) and being causal in men not being asked to go shopping. Q. Are you influenced by the clothes celebrities wear?

Celebrities trend set for clothing fashions in Kazakhstan. Many of the focus group actively watched Fashion TV and other fashion television shows, as well as read magazines to be aware of the latest fashions being worn. Many of these clothes are then emulated or copied by the focus group members. This was noted in women’s shoes in Kazakhstan having three to five inch spike heels, as is seen on many of the fashion runways viewed on Fashion TV. Similarly, the use of bright contrasting colors, frequently mixed together, is perceived as stylish because it is viewed on Fashion TV.

The group noted bright colors are worn year round and are found in all types of clothing including office wear, casual wear, and formal wear. The focus group stated brand names are important and give the wearer higher perceived status. For example, if “United Colors of Benetton” is embossed on a shirt, the shirt is deemed to look stylish. This enhances the wearer’s status as trendy, a preference in many groups. Other trademarks, such as the “D&G” initials signifies the wearer is to be respected because of the cost of the clothes; i.e. the wearer has a high amount of disposable income and therefore should be respected. “The popular brand name gives the feeling that the quality is high and the cloth is perceived as expensive” (mentioned 25 times). The majority or 65 percent of the interviewees agreed foreign brands are considered as “more stylish” and therefore can command a higher price. The fashion market is also saturated with imitations of famous name-brands. Imitations vary very little from the originals’ appearance. The difference appears in the quality and the price with the copied goods selling for significantly less despite carrying the designer or fashion houses’ name or logo. Although their quality cannot be guaranteed, there continues to be a demand enhanced partially by the authentic brands. The “brands” create the demand for the forgeries, with the Kazakhstani’s indifferent to the impact on anything but their wallet. “Brands are fashionable and people will buy them” (focus groups’ inputs) and overall, this fits into Kudiabergenova’s (2005, p. 8) view that “Kazakhstan fashion is obsessed with trends and brands”. Q. How do retailers affect your clothes’ or fashion purchases?

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Retailers and the sales personnel affect buying behaviour with “their personal touch”. For example, when the customer is looking at clothes or trying them on, the input of the sales clerk is important, especially if the individual is unsure or shopping alone. If the retailer or sales clerk states the clothing item “is very fashionable this season” or “the clothes suit you so much” the customer is more prone to purchase. “If one does not have a friend or another person who can give one an advice, then one would tend to believe the retailer’s comments” (mentioned 16 times). However, if there is doubt and the sales clerk or retailer is not actively involved with the customer, the customer will leave the store without the purchase. Q. What is your perception of clothes made outside Kazakhstan?

The manufacturer or designer of clothing made outside of the developed world is suspect in the eyes of many Kazakh’s due to stereotyping. Clothing and accessories produced either locally or in other developing or third world countries are perceived to be of lower quality. Goods or fashions made in Europe are perceived as good, as demonstrated by comment from the focus group “German quality is very high”. The focus group members mentioned 30 times in the four focus groups that clothes made in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were not generally perceived to be of consistent quality to those made in Kazakhstan, Europe, or North America. Much of the clothing imported into Kazakhstan comes from mainland China due to its geographical proximity and low shipping costs. However, if the clothing bears any mention of having been designed or made in China, Kazakhs are reluctant to purchase because they think “Chinese goods are of a low quality” (mentioned 25 times). Kazakhstani people have had limited exposure to quality goods from PRC, which,

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when coupled with the pervasive suspicion of PRC results in poor opinions of PRC goods. These goods are perceived to be similar to Japanese products in the 1960s. The reality of the quality of the goods does not overcome the previously mentioned mistrust of the Chinese and China, potentially blocking Kazakhstan from excellent markets and suppliers, both of which are vital to emerging economies. PRC goods are purchased only when there is no choice due to either their low prices or absence of substitutes. “When the country attained its independence, Kazakhstan used to import Chinese goods of very low quality for comparatively low prices. Many people were disappointed with these goods and became very suspicious of cheap prices. So nowadays such a perception or a stereotype emerged, being ‘Made in China’ products are low quality. Nonetheless, it can be said that for most people, Chinese goods are a good opportunity to dress and live well at a low price!” (Focus groups’ input). “A very distinct feature in Kazakhstan’s clothes markets exists at the low end. Most of these Chinese goods can be fakes but they are a good opportunity to dress” (focus groups’ input). These words coincide with Balfour’s (2005) estimation of China accounting for nearly two-thirds of the world’s counterfeit goods. Kazakhstan has no copyright laws, thus allowing for copying and selling of goods regardless of their origins. Q. How do promotions or sales affect your buying decisions?

Large discount sales or promotions like “buy two for the price of one” positively affect buying decisions. “Everyone in Kazakhstan wants to get something for half price” (mentioned seven times). Discounts such as 20 to 30 percent are normally attractive. However, it was noted the term “sale” or offers of discounts are accepted at face value with little comparative shopping either on-line or through reputable outlets. The terminology has greater import than the factual reality of the percentage of discount. The groups’ discussions also highlighted more promotions and sales should be held. “Kazakhstani women like discounts, and it fits with our culture” and “our people like gifts”. This finding confirms Abdykulova’s (2004) study indicating the terms of “sales” and “promotion” are more important than the reality of actual price discounting. Shoppers in Kazakhstan do not comparison shop for much of their purchases, stemming perhaps from the domination of the USSR and the lack of purchase options prevalent during those times, or from the lack of printed material available in Kazakhstan, or from the increasingly fast pace of the Kazakhstani lifestyle wherein shopping is not given large amounts of time, or from the predominance of small shops or stalls. Regardless of the reason, the lack of comparison shopping means the vendor can charge any price they chose and state it is a sale price simply because to not say it is sale would mean the merchandize would not sell. Q. How do fashion models and/or celebrities affect their buying?

The focus group stated endorsements of products by celebrities or opinion leaders do affect the buying behaviour. This behaviour is due to their desire to emulate superstars or models (mentioned ten times). The glamour effect makes the women “feel like being the stars”. Again, the goods or products are accepted at face value without any further investigation of the quality or price of the goods.

The superstars who are most emulated are the “big” name stars from Hollywood whose movies are translated into Russian and the Russian stars. Kazakhstani television includes European MTV that plays songs in many languages giving those watching the ability to follow the stars who have been successful in Europe. Perhaps stemming from the mentality under the USSR, when a celebrity states something as fact, it is accepted as fact with few questions. Many within the focus groups accepted the fashion trends of America or the “West” as desirable, modern, and progressive. This may represent Kazakhstan’s quest for independence following over a century of political domination, a quest that may be more pressing than recognition of individual ethnicities. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy, Kazakhstan is now free from Russian domination and has sufficient natural resources, including oil, eliminating the need to concentrate on physiological and safety issues, replaced with concentrated effort to find its place with other world oil powers. This is felt by many of the citizens and is expressed through acceptance of some westernized fashions mixed with unique Kazakhstani fashions. This desire is stronger in the younger market who have not experienced many of the difficulties experienced in the communist era. With the median age of Kazakhstan being only 28.5 years, many of those with buying power have little direct experience with the former communist regime. General comments Putting more “sizzle” in fashion marketing To put more “sizzle” into fashion marketing for women in Almaty, the focus groups’ members agreed with an increase in choices for women given the current market economy. The emergence of many boutiques selling fashionable clothes and accessories was identified as a reason for the improved diversity of offerings. The growing relative affluence of women was noted with the increasing number of spas and clubs wherein women are encouraged to pamper themselves. Perhaps because of this, individuals within the groups expressed 34 times during the four meetings that more attention to the needs and desires of women is needed when marketing in the fashion industry in Kazakhstan. These needs may best be met with personal selling; supporting the literature indicating purchasing is increased with additional time spent in a store (Primedia Business, 2004). The layout of the store was noted as important within the focus group discussions as long as the store had the merchandise appealing to the consumer (Paulins and Geistfeld, 2003). The focus group postulated stores should be designed to give their clientele a “VIP treatment” designed to pamper. This would include updating the changing rooms into beautiful and aesthetically designed refuges within the motif of the store. This perception may signify the increasing educational level of the Kazakhstani society similar to that outlined in Paulins and Geistfeld (2003). The use of models, music, and celebrities, together with the use of fashion shows such as those viewed on “Fashion TV” or branded by “Victoria’s Secret” was highlighted as adding to the “sizzle” or saleability of the goods. This was especially noted with the use of celebrity endorsement adding to the value of the brand of the clothes and lingerie. In optimizing the effective use of celebrities, there should be commonalities between the brand and the celebrity promoting it (Ramakrishna and Reddy, 2005) necessitating the linkage of the celebrity to the product according to

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Kazakhstani preferences and knowledge. This was done by Virgin Cola with the bottle mimicking the curvaceous femininity of Pamela Anderson (Kelly, 2005) an instantly recognizable figure in both the UK and North America. Fashion marketing in Kazakhstan was noted as optimal when parallels “in the form of beauty and youthfulness” (focus groups’ input) are drawn between the consumer and the product. Coinciding with Abdykulova’s (2004) study, the focus group members also opined for advertising to be placed in Kazakhstani women’s magazines such as Cosmopolitan Kazakhstan, Sezon, Randevu, and Elite Women Kazakhstan to reach their target audience. Interestingly, the focus group members pointed out advertising in these magazines facilitates communication with women from the higher strata of the society. In contrast to television ads, such advertising is not only efficient but it also costs less and reaches the target audience. Shopping at the Baraholka Market Shuttle business or goods bought at one location or market and sold at another, is prevalent in Kazakhstan. Such business is commonly practiced in the Baraholka and other markets in Almaty. It is said most of the goods sold at the markets in different regions come from one place, the Baraholka. For those who live in and around Almaty, the presence of the market means lower prices because when sold in other markets, the price escalates. Pampering women The focus groups reported the emergence of many boutiques selling fashionable clothes and accessories; mentioning these 25 times throughout the four interviews. In fact, this study reaffirms what Ibrayeva and Low (2004) highlighted, which is: people want to indulge themselves. This is similar to Popcorn’s (1992) concept of “small indulgences” leading to the conclusion, Kazakhstani marketers should focus on the brands, allowing their clientele to feel pampered or indulged when buying. Kazakhstani market segments for female clothing Fashion marketers need to cater to the desire to dress in the season’s latest styles and colours (Bay, 2004) while respecting Epictetus, the Greek philosopher who once said, “Know first who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly”. Schiffman and Kanuk (2004) find most people dress to fit their self-image, including their perceptions of their own social class membership. Self-image and their perceptions of their own social class membership also serve to supply the basis for the different market segments. Interestingly, the focus groups identified several market segments identifiable within the Kazakhstani marketplace. These can be categorised as follows: . The “business lady type”: clothes sold to the “business lady type” need to be “neat”, “elegant”, “simple cut”, and “expensive” (focus groups’ input). The perceived age range is from late twenties to thirties, meaning these women are very aware of and willing to dress within the changing styles of the fashion runways. . The “lady boss type”: these women are business owners or work in the governmental sector. They wear and prefer the conservative look, although they are aware of the need to dress in expensive clothing. Clothes sold to them should have a “conservative appeal” (focus groups’ input). The message they sent is

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“they have made it”, or they are “simply successful”. Their age range is from late twenties to thirties, meaning these women are also very aware of new styles but will only dress in those styles deemed “classics”. The “fashion conscious”: as their name suggests, members of this group are usually educated or attending college and want to be independent. The focus groups identified this population to be “about 19 to 29 years old”. They “tend to dress, following the fashion of the day and are strongly influenced by what (is) depicted in the fashion magazines”. They can also be “brand-crazy, going after certain popular brands” (focus groups’ input; mentioned 20 times). This segment is clearly affected by the importance of the brand names and associated images. The “social-able woman type”: “usually around in their thirties or forties” and “extroverted”, they want to appear “aristocratic” and “stylish” (focus groups’ input). Clothes sold to them can be “elegant and expensive and has sex appeal” (focus groups’ input). This segment appears to be similar to the “lady boss” group. The “country folk type”: clothes sold to the “country folk type” are “simple” and “functional”. Normally, the country folk types are “shy and are usually afraid to show their emotions”. They “dress simply and do not wear brightly coloured clothes” (focus groups’ input). Baraholka products may appeal to the “country folk type” since they are “functional and cheap” (focus groups’ input). This segment does not comprise those who shop in the fashion house or high-end boutiques.

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Generally-speaking, younger ladies, in particular, the “fashion conscious,” preferred brighter colours such as red, rose/pink, or white. Here, the focus groups also highlighted that, “women in the rural areas tended to be more conservative in their dress than women living in urban areas” (focus groups’ input; mentioned 16 times). “Rural women when coming to the cities would like to look good and they tend to dress well” (focus groups’ input; mentioned nine times). “Urban ladies, wearing bright clothes, like to be seen as sophisticated in their dress” (focus groups’ input; mentioned seven times). The colours of the women’s clothes is viewed as important, and was deemed by the focus group as being required to be of a “ladylike colour” such as pink. The colour black was also liked, with the group citing the colour made the ladies look “slimmer and more confident”, adding “a touch of mystery”, and “very fitting to the local culture” (focus groups’ input). In terms of hair colours, blonde hair colours appeared to be especially popular among Almaty ladies. Those younger ladies, particularly the “fashion conscious type” who changed the colour of their hair, as well as those whose hair colour was natural, both sought highlighting. This was perceived as fashionably trendy. Being aware of branded clothes With fashion being a very important aspect of many contemporary Kazakhstani citizens’ lives, people pay attention to the branding of their clothes and the image this portrays. The focus groups opined “compared to the USA or say Hawaii, where people prefer to dress casually, in our country, people very often dress formally. The saying, ‘Don’t judge the book by its cover’ is particularly relevant. Rich youngsters are crazy about world-famous brands such as Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Gucci, Versace and many

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other brands” (focus groups’ input). However, Kazakhstan is close to the People’s Republic of China border and many of the clothes available through the low-price markets are the knock-offs that China bulk exports. Thus, labels and styles used by brands are available at lower costs through the markets regardless of authenticity. It is noteworthy that an unlabeled knock off is not perceived as valuable whereas a labelled knock off is. This coincides with Kudiabergenova’s (2005, p. 8) perception of being fashionable as “be running into the arms of anything that screams out brand names”. There’s a high demand for these name brand goods among all income groups, with middle class and poorer citizens dressing in knock offs and other more accessible and cheaper brands of stylish clothes. “Moderately priced brands with good quality and style seem to be in good demand as well” (focus groups’ input). Benefits and limitations of study This study represents a preliminary exploration into the fashion market in Almaty as representative of urban Kazakhstan. It begins to lend insight into the psychology of the target audience of Kazakhstani women. This study also helps to fill the deficit in the existing business literature and research concerning women in Kazakhstan. Focus groups were the primary sources of information resulting in one key benefit: the depth of information available in focus groups provided information from a group of people much more quickly and at lesser costs and can be assembled on much shorter notice than would be required for a larger survey (Stewart and Shamdasani, 1990, p. 16; Morgan, 2002). However, some limitations of the study should also be highlighted. Within this study, women were grouped together regardless of ethnicity. Further studies should be made of the women of the various ethnic groups in Kazakhstan to determine if there are significant differences in fashion taste and purchasing behaviours according to the individual’s ethnicity despite the observations made by the researchers as to the differentiation of taste based on the country of birth rather than on ethnicity. The researchers recognize within Kazakhstan, ethnic segmentation may be a reality but within this study there was no evidence of this. A further division may be made between women who live in urban as opposed to rural settings. Although the focus groups were held only in Almaty, members of the focus groups hailed from a number of Kazakhstani cities. However, it should be noted that being the Republic’s former capital, Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, very cosmopolitan, and noted as a fashion leader of the area. Almaty continues to be a centre of trade, with Kazakhstani people mixing with other nationalities, as it has done since the time of the Silk Road linking Europe to China. Almaty also boasts a number of educational institutions that bring people into the city from rural Kazakhstan and other CIS countries. The focus groups’ findings can be considered as representative of the Kazakhstani society albeit the cosmopolitan end of the spectrum. Discussion Kazakhstani women are attaining higher education levels and beginning to express their individuality, making the marketing of fashion to them more complex than previously experienced. Similar to research completed in developed and westernized countries, this research indicates the Kazakhstani woman is becoming aware of her right to choose her clothing and the location of her purchases (Paulins and Geistfeld, 2003). Kazakhstani women are willing to exchange some store services for lower prices,

but continue to expect to be treated with respect, a fundamental service tenet of relationship marketing (Marzo-Navarro et al., 2004). This may be a trade off considering the lack of respect Kazakhstani women experience in their society in general, or it may be a dawning of a new era for merchandizing. However, with the potential for a relationship between the retailer and the consumer, the Kazakhstani fashion industry needs not only to be aware of brand loyalty within clothing lines, but brand loyalty among customers for shops. Kazakhstani women, similar to Western women (Paulins and Geistfeld, 2003), are value conscious. However, their awareness has not yet overcome the former communist mindset dictating their acceptance of verbal information as correct. For example, if a store posts a sale, it is assumed to be correct, even if the sale prices reflect an everyday non-sale price. Kazakhstani women are becoming very conscious of fashion and with the recognition of their independence and relative economic prosperity, their ability to buy is hampered only by their discretionary income. Many of these women accept as truth the fashion statements found in magazines resulting in a cornucopia of fashion trends unique to Kazakhstan. With the run-way fashions accepted as normal every-day wear, the Kazakhstani woman finds herself in an experiential world where the fashion dictates of the society are derived from a world of high fashion including bright colours, pointed shoes, spike four inch heels, skin-tight slacks and shirts, bare midriffs, and blonde hair, despite their skin tone or natural hair colour. Kazakhstani society is a very visual society that does not interpret either the meaning or the origins of the visual perceptions. Thus, fashion in this society is an accepted statement having significance. Conclusion Marketing in an emerging economy with a diverse multicultural society like Kazakhstan is never an easy task. This study has outlined a number of consumer patterns and expectations and identified certain key strategies of fashion marketing including: . recognizing the attitude toward PRC clothes labelled as such; . fashion market segments among women divided into five sub-groups; . Kazakhstani women want to be pampered while shopping; . Kazakhstani women recognize brand names and will pay a significant differential for this status; . Kazakhstani women respond to the concept of a sale or a discount, regardless of the reality of the pricing; and . Kazakhstan does not have copyright laws, allowing for the sale of forgeries and knock offs with impunity from the government and complicity from the buying public. These factors make the Kazakhstani market somewhat different amongst other developing nations, especially in light of the high growth in the economy due to their reliance upon the natural resource of oil. Kazakhstan is a country offering unique challenges to marketers and the fashion industry, but it is a country with huge economic opportunity, if marketers are able to tap the psyche of the marketplace.

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Pastore, M. (1998), “Insurance data: men shop, women buy”, available at: www.clickz.com/stats/ sectors/ inance/article.php/152931 (accessed 2 February, 2005). Paulins, V.A. and Geistfeld, L.V. (2003), “The effect of consumer perceptions of store attributes on apparel store preference”, Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 371-85. Popcorn, F. (1992), The Popcorn Report, Harper Business, New York, NY. Primedia Business (2004), “Live from PROMO Expo: event marketing warms women, Gen Y”, PROMO, Primedia Business Magazines & Media, Inc. available at: http://promomagazine. com/news/breakingnews/expo_event_mktg_women/index.html (accessed 4 Febuary 2005). Ramakrishna, S. and Reddy, A.S. (2005), “Celebrity endorsement”, Effective Executive, pp. 30-3. Romanenko, E. (2004), “Woman and modern society”, The Kazakhstan Monitor, 30 April, p. 2. Schiffman, L.G. and Kanuk, L.L. (2004), Consumer Behavior, Pearson Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Shuler, L. (2004), “Experiential marketing survey: new consumer research”, Jack Morton Worldwide web site, available at: www.jackmorton.com Stewart, D.W. and Shamdasani, P.N. (1990), Focus Groups: Theory and Practice, Sage Publications, Newbury Park, CA. Further reading Center for Women’s Business Research (2003), “Top facts about women-owned businesses”, available at: www.womensbusinessresearch.org/topfacts.html (accessed 7 February 2005). Hoyle, L.H. (2002), Event Marketing, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY. Saunders, C. (2001), “MSN survey: 60% of women click on banners”, available at: www.clickz. com/news/article.php/738081 (accessed: 3 February, 2005). About the authors Patrick Low, PhD (South Australia), M.Bus. (Curtin), Dip M (UK), GDPM, GDMF (MIS/Standard Chartered Bank Gold Award), BA. Formerly, Professor Low was an associate faculty of the Management Development Institute of Singapore and Singapore Institute of Management training consultant. A Chartered Marketer and Chartered Consultant, Patrick Low is an associate with the University of South Australia and currently the Visiting Professor in Universite Malaya. Ina Freeman, PhD (Birmingham, UK) teaches Marketing at a small university in the USA. Formerly, she taught at KIMEP in Kazakhstan; University of Birmingham, UK while in the final year of her research write-up for her terminal degree; and University of Lethbridge, Canada. Prior to that, Dr Freeman freelanced in the community. She is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: ina.freeman@gmail.com

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