Consumer satisfaction is key for retailers to retain loyal consumers. Retailers use apparel brands as a strategy to differentiate themselves in the market place, to attract potential consumers and to retain loyal consumers. Retailers have discovered the potential of the fuller figure sector as a lucrative market which can assist them to make profits and to increase their sales. The aim of this research is firstly to explore and describe the needs and expectations that the fuller figure South African working women have with branded career wear secondly, how they evaluate branded career wear apparel against the two broad quality dimensions namely functional and aesthetic dimensions and thirdly the problems they experience with the functional and aesthetic quality dimensions of branded career wear. The study also describes how fuller figure South African working women consumers further evaluate the branded apparel during the decision-making process which can ultimately lead to her either accepting or rejecting the branded career wear. This research is descriptive in nature, as an attempt is made to describe and understand how working fuller figure females evaluate branded apparel against certain quality dimensions and make decisions to purchase branded apparel to satisfy their needs. The Sproles and Burns’ (1994:264) decision-making model theoretical underpins the study. A quantitative research style was chosen for this study and the objectives and sub- objectives related to the needs and problems of the quality dimensions of the branded career wear were examined. A self-administered, structured questionnaire was designed to gain demographic information of the sample group, their store preferences, where they get their fashion information from as well as their needs and problems with regard to branded career wear apparel. Purposive sampling and snowball sampling techniques were used to select a sample of working fuller figure females in the Tshwane, South Africa area. The responses to the 150 questionnaires were coded, captured and analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The results of this study revealed that most of the respondents ranked the functional quality dimensions higher than the aesthetic quality dimensions. It is clear that most of the fuller figure consumers regard comfort as the most important need, followed by durability (that the material of the branded career wear should be of good quality). The sample group also regarded the emotional aesthetic aspects very important (that the styles are beautiful and make her feel feminine). It is contradictory, that these fuller figure working women experienced major problems with the quality dimensions that they ranked as highly important. The sample group experienced problems with fit at the functional and aesthetic level, although fit is one of the most important factors that consumers use during the evaluation of apparel items. This study makes certain recommendations to apparel retailers, fashion theorists and image consultants how to obtain optimal consumer satisfaction. The South African apparel retailers should take cognisance of the needs and problems of this growing market related to the functional and aesthetic quality dimensions. The study also revealed how age and income play a role regarding the needs and problems this sample group experienced with branded career wear and how this can influence their decision to either accept or reject a brand. The results contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the needs and problems of branded career wear apparel for the fuller figure market related to certain functional and aesthetic quality dimensions Copyright
Dissertation (MConsumer Science)--University of Pretoria, 2012.