Psychological and socio-economic factors influencing clothing consumption by employed women in a liberalised market: a case of Nairobi city, Kenya
Apunda, Edwinah Amondi
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Kenya's participation in the global trade as a result of liberalization has been evidently felt by clothing consumers since the year, 1993. Many traders have since been able to import goods at relatively lower costs than before, clothing items being among them. Consequently, consumption of imported clothing items by Kenyans has been enhanced a great deal; a fact evident on the streets of Nairobi city as consumers are dressed in varied clothing fashions and designs. However, problems such as exploitation of consumers by traders, demonstrated in a number of ways still remain. The purpose of this research, therefore, was to identify the psychological and socio-economic factors, which influence the selection and consumption patterns of clothing by women in the liberalized market. The study focused on the Central Business District of Nairobi City. This study adopted the descriptive survey design. A sample of 233 female employees (156 and 77) was obtained from Government of Kenya ministries and Private Employment Companies respectively. Purposive sampling technique was used. A list of GOK ministries was obtained from the Central Bureau of Statistics, while the Nairobi Stock Exchange office provided the list for the PEC. Data were collected using 'closed and open' ended questionnaire. Frequencies and percentages were used to organize and analysed the data. An attempt to use Chi-square test of relationship was made, but the results were presented and analysed at the cross-tabulation level. The response rate was 89.6 percent. Results show that the psychological factors, which strongly influenced the respondents' clothing selection/consumption, were: clothing items in which one looked attractive, what was fashionable, the personal values or beliefs of the respondents, the respondents' attitude towards clothing items in the liberalised market, the cost of the clothing item in question, the quality of the clothing items, the colour of the clothing items and the fitting characteristics of the clothing items. The socio-economic factors were the amount of money available to them, the social activities in which they engaged, what was approved by their peers, colleagues and family members, the purpose/use of the clothing items, and their employment status. The market related problems, which also affected the consumers' clothing consumption, were: uniform style of dressing, rapid rate of fashion change, exorbitant prices on clothing items, which are otherwise unique, sale of imitation clothing for original ones by clothing producers and retailers. A high proportion of the respondents belonged to the low and middle-income groups with only a few in the high-income group. They preferred imported clothing items to the local ones. The results also show that clothing stores and boutiques selling new clothes were the most preferred outlets from which the respondents selected their clothing items, while the displays formed the most popular source of information concerning clothing. Clothing items worn by other people also formed another popular source from which fashion was copied. In conclusion, there is a lot of exploitation of clothing consumers by sellers in the liberalized market, which is based on the consumers' strong belief on imported items. It is also clear that economic liberalization has helped Kenyan Clothing producers to improve on the standards of textile products. It is, therefore, recommended that the Ministry of Trade and Industry, together with the KCO should constantly check that sales are conducted genuinely, and use these findings to sensitise consumers on the improvements on locally made items.