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First Post in Prague

June 2, 2010

I started my first ethnography observation in Palladium in Prague, which is regarded as a relatively high-end shopping mall for Czech people. I found out a lot of differences in shopping environment and consumers’ purchasing behaviors compared with those in UK. The first observation left me a lot of question marks: why is there almost nobody in the H&M, Topshop in Prague, however those in London are overwhelmed? Why most people shopping there are middle-aged? Why is there a lot of men shopping together? Why is there almost no fashion advertising besides those in-store?

In the Palladium mall, there were not so many people shopping there and most of them are middle-aged people. In general, consumers do shopping in group. They touch the products and talk with each other about them. But they usually just take 1-2 pieces to try on or none. However, in H&M and Topshop in London, most people there have more than 5 items in hands. And in Prague here, there were even no people waiting outside the fitting room.

Also, Czech people are price-sensitive. They are more concerned about the quality and price than the brands. In some sense, they cared about the exchange of the price and the product they can get in the end. The key question for them is whether this product is worthwhile. Besides, when they are purchasing a piece of cloth or an accessory item, they are likely to consider its usage frequency based on the combination of their current outfits. The more opportunities they will wear it, the more possibility that they will buy it.

Moreover, the service people behind the cashier desk in a lot of stores were often away from the desk. Nobody is there to offer the service for the customers. There is a possibility that the workers there have already have the assumption that there won’t be a lot of consumers shopping here and it’s fine for them to be away for several minutes. However, in the Topshop and H&M in London, there are not only 3-4 cashiers but also every consumer have to wait more than 10 minutes to check out.

The Cashier Desk in Topshop in Palladium

After talking with several Czech people and the acknowledgement of Czech culture and history, everything is beginning to make sense for me.

International brands are regarded as a symbolism of freedom of choices and free market. Before the revolution in 1989, people didn’t have a lot of choices in purchasing clothes. Nowadays, the free market provide them with more freedom of choices. However, even though in this modern megamall there are a variety of international brands, like C&A, Esprit, H&M, Topshop, etc, the products there are still quite expensive for most Czech people. The average price of a pair of jeans in Topshop is $70 and the average income per person in Czech every month is $1250.

Besides the concern about prices, especially for older generation, they are already used to the old shopping habits. They prefer to do shopping in independent and private stores and they have strong loyalty to local Czech brands, like the popular shoes brand Hannah. Therefore, most international brands are luxury for them. According to the manager from Remmark, international brands in Czech is regarded as a symbolism of freedom choices for Czech people. But they usually do not do shopping there.

The swim suit advertising we saw till now in Prague

And this might also be the reason that why there are less advertising about fashion in Czech. People tend to purchase products they need, which is like a part of life necessity, rather than the fact in UK that the outfit is the reflection of individual’s personality and identity.

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