Survey: H&M pulls in the most first-time shoppers among fashion chains

More customers are trying out unfamiliar fashion chains this year compared to last -- and the leader at attracting let's-try-something-different shoppers is H&M, according to a survey of 4,000 consumers by Market Force Information. And for once, the survey doesn't say only how many customers made a change, but also why.

According to the survey, H&M led among chains that shoppers said they visited for the first time, followed by Kohl's (NYSE:KSS), Macy's (NYSE:M), Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) and Forever 21. The survey found that 39 percent of shoppers had tried a new retailer in the previous three months, up from 32 percent in 2011 and 14 percent in 2010. Coldwater Creek (NASDAQ:CWTR) and White House | Black Market (NYSE:CHS) dropped out of the top five from the 2011 standings.

But this kind of ranking is really for bragging rights. Much more interesting -- and useful -- is why shoppers said they tried new stores.

According to Market Force:

* Sales and promotions were the biggest reason that shoppers decided to try an unfamiliar apparel chain. Conventional ads in newspapers and magazines and on TV were the least compelling reason, and social media don't have the pulling power for retailer preferences they once did.

* Shoppers were most willing to try a new store when in the market for casual clothing, as opposed to business attire.

* Customers that had a great first experience with a chain opened their wallets -- and their mouths. Of shoppers who said they were highly satisfied by their initial visit, 90 percent said they made a purchase. The same percentage said they would shop at the highly satisfying retailer again within 90 days. And highly satisfied consumers were six times more likely to recommend a retailer to others.

For more:

- see this Chain Store Age story

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