Pumpkin Patch wasn’t always in dire straits with its customers.
Australian research firm Roy Morgan reports that in 2010 and 2014, Pumpkin Patch’s shopper traffic hit its peak, with almost 220,000 people making at least one purchase there in an average four weeks.
This meant its customer numbers were consistently higher that of Cotton On Kids, until recently.
But times have changed. From July 2015 to June 2016, Pumpkin Patch was seeing 128,000 shoppers buying clothes in an average four weeks.
In comparison, over at competitor Kmart’s stores, the number of people shopping for children’s clothes has skyrocketed since 2014, jumping from 559,000 to 712,000.
Prior to this, Kmart was stuck in a two-year slump for children’s clothes sales.
Research by Roy Morgan notes that Pumpkin Patch isn’t the only children’s wear retailer to have lost customers over the past few years, as Target and Big W have also been dealt blows.
The decrease in sales also can’t be attributed to customer dissatisfaction.
Pumpkin Patch has always scored consistently as one of the highest Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards winners for years, with upwards of 90 percent of its customers left feeling satisfied.
So where have Pumpkin Patch’s customers been going instead?
Visitation of Australia’s top six children’s clothing retailers, from July 2009 to June 2016
International players such as H&M and Zara will have no doubt snapped up some of its market share.
Though both chains are new to New Zealand, they have been across the ditch for a while.
As Roy Morgan’s research indicates, at any given four weeks in Australia, around 35,000 Australians buy Aldi children’s clothes, 15,000 buy it from Zara and 45,000 buy it from H&M.
That’s 95,000 shoppers that may have been spending their money at Pumpkin Patch otherwise.
General manager of consumer products at Roy Morgan Research, Angela Smith, says the children’s wear sector is a very different place to what it was 1990 when Pumpkin Patch came on the scene.
“Online shopping didn’t exist, and international players like H&M, Aldi and Zara were yet to disrupt the local market,” Smith says.
“These days, retailers are faced with a much more crowded and competitive landscape; it’s inevitable that not every business will thrive in these ever-changing conditions.”
She says aside from international brands entering the market, the true competitor gobbling up Pumpkin Patch’s market share is Kmart, which has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity.
As part of a larger turnaround strategy from CEO Guy Rosso in 2013, it dove into the children’s wear category and begun producing ‘fast fashion’ for kids.
“With its cheap-and-cheerful kids’-wear range and a series of vibrant, attention-grabbing TV ads promoting it, Kmart is successfully luring more and more shoppers away from the competition (not only Pumpkin Patch, it should be added) with its fun, ‘fast-fashion’ approach,” Smith says.
It now sees 712,000 shoppers buying children’s wear from it in an average four weeks, compared to Pumpkin Patch’s 128,000.
Smith says while it’s high quality garments with a high price tag may have served Pumpkin Patch well in the past, its premium approach no longer works well in the current market.
“In this increasingly high-turnover, budget-focused retail landscape, it lost its competitive edge,” she says.
Consumers are instead preferring to shop at cheaper, cheerier shops, such as Kmart and Cotton On Kids.