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Pumpkin Patch’s demise: a sign of the times

With kidswear chain Pumpkin Patch going into receivership, the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research show that the number of people buying children’s clothing at the retailer’s Australian stores or online has been steadily declining for the past two years, even as kidswear shoppers at rivals Cotton On Kids and Kmart have increased.  But the data also indicates that it’s not as simple as that…

Like most retailers, Pumpkin Patch has seen its customers ebb and flow over the years. In 2010 and 2014, its shopper traffic peaked at almost 220,000 people making at least one purchase there in an average four weeks, and its customer numbers consistently eclipsed those shopping at Cotton On Kids – until recently, when Cotton On Kids overtook it (133,000 vs 128,000 per average four weeks).

Meanwhile, the number of people shopping for children’s clothes at Kmart in an average four weeks has sky-rocketed since 2014, from 559,000 to 712,000. In fact, June 2014 marked something of a turning point for the discount department giant, marking its emergence from a two-year slump in kidswear customers.

Visitation of Australia’s top 6 children’s clothing retailers
July 2009-June 2016

7032-chart

But as the chart above indicates, Pumpkin Patch isn’t the only kidswear retailer to have lost customers in the past few years: Target, Big W and Best & Less have all lost ground too. So what’s going on?

First and foremost, Pumpkin Patch shopper numbers do not appear to be dwindling because of any dissatisfaction with the store. On the contrary, the chain has scored consistently highly in the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards for years. Not only did it win Clothing Retailer of the Year in 2013, it has been among the category’s top three scorers almost every month since then, satisfying upwards of 90% of its customers. (Target, Big W and Best & Less tend to score well too, around the mid-high 80s).

While international players like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara have already made a huge impact on adult fashion retail, they’re not yet dominant in the kidswear scene. But their presence would undoubtedly be bothering smaller specialty chains like Pumpkin Patch: for example, in any given four weeks, some 35,000 Australians buy children’s clothing at ALDI, 15,000 buy it at Zara and 45,000 buy it from H&M. That’s 95,000 shoppers who might otherwise have been shopping at Pumpkin Patch.

Add to this the stratospheric rise of Kmart in the kidswear sphere, and one can only conclude that other retailers in the category would be seriously reassessing what they need to do to remain competitive and avoid the same fate as Pumpkin Patch…

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