Lagging teen retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle and Aéropostale shouldn’t look solely at each other as competitors, but also at some of their former shoppers. That’s because a growing number of digitally savvy Generation Z entrepreneurs, ages 13 to 17, have set out to create their own small businesses — and collectively, are becoming serious contenders in the retail space.
The Intelligence Group, a division of Creative Artists Agency, has dubbed this new wave of entrepreneurship “me-tailers,” a rise of young consumers who are becoming their own merchants via social media platforms and phone applications. Having grown up with social media, these young people are using what’s familiar to them to generate a revenue stream.
Though Gen-Zers are less likely to have spending power, it is still significant: They directly influence about $600 million in consumer spending every year and compose around 40 to 46 million individuals in the U.S. alone.
And their entrepreneurial spirit is only growing.
In the same study, TIG found that in the past six months, 18 percent of that generation sold something on a resale site like Craigslist or eBay, 17 percent sold their own items online or at a consignment store, and 8 percent sold products they made themselves online.
“They’re younger and haven’t met their spending peak yet,” said Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer of TIG. “Their purchasing power is limited just because of their age, but Gen-Zers are the CTOs [chief technology officers] of their families and are the true digital natives of the households. They are driving and consuming in a new digital way by informing their parents on best consuming practices, whether scanning barcodes with their phones or using specific apps. They are truly consuming the Web.”
According to TIG, more than 50 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds are accessing the Web via mobile devices only. In another study, by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, of those in this age group browsing their phones, 95 percent use the Internet, while 81 percent of them use social media sites. Facebook is still the most widely used, with 94 percent of teens reporting they have a profile there. In contrast, Twitter was used by 12 percent of teens in 2011 but more than doubled to 26 percent in 2012. With Instagram, 11 percent of teens reported they were active users.
On Instagram alone, the Gen-Zers are inviting their peers to become their customers by selling their items via the hashtag #forsale, to make them searchable, and using applications and sites like Hashbag and Paytagz to organize these posts into a marketplace. A simple search on the site Hashbag, for instance, allows any user to find specific items that are up for sale on Instagram. Other users on Instagram leave their e-mail addresses linked to their PayPal accounts to initiate a one-click transfer.
“Every moment is a shopping moment for them,” said Gutfreund. “They’re doing tons of research — more than any other generation — on what to buy.”
According to a study by the JWT Intelligence, Gen-Zers, more than any other generation, seem to prefer online shopping to offline, with 55 percent of teens preferring the former. In the report, 57 percent preferred online shopping over brick and mortar for accessories, and 55 percent for shoes. More than any other generation, they consult their peers before purchasing any apparel. In another study by TIG, 84 percent of all Gen-Zers’ purchasing decisions were influenced by the opinions of their peers, friends or family members, with 11 percent consulting social networks before purchasing items.
“From the real world to online, their purchasing decisions are influenced by opinions of peers, friends or family members,” said Gutfreund. “On Instagram, it’s an instant way to seek approval and see what they should or shouldn’t buy.”
The “me-tailing” competition for retailers may seem threatening, but it presents the potential to think of business in a new way: working alongside creative individuals to build upon meaningful relationships. Already, a handful of retailers have recognized the importance of this new way of consuming.
Asos, for instance, allows people to list and sell their new or pre-owned clothing in the site’s Marketplace, an open online boutique.
The British e-commerce site launched the boutique in 2010 open to young designers or consigners, and saw that me-tailing would enhance their own offerings.
“Setting up Marketplace was a natural fit — we give this amazing window to young fashion entrepreneurs,” said Katie Oldham, senior Marketplace manager for Asos. “As our customers wanted it, it presented a great opportunity to support young entrepreneurial fashion businesses to reach a global audience of fashion lovers. We quickly saw trends emerging and have seen progression of Marketplace boutique sellers to be stocked on Asos.com. [It] diversifies the product offering across the Asos business.”
Urban Outfitters is also embracing the trend, carrying art prints on its Society6 Web site, a community of thousands of artists who sell their artwork worldwide through a variety of products. Artists are given a specific amount depending on product types they intend to sell. For instance, stationery cards will make a profit of $1.20 to $2; hoodies will make $4.20.
Anthropologie, part of Urban Outfitters Inc., has a Featured Artists section on its site where it features and sells young designers and their stories.
“These retailers are learning not to ignore these young entrepreneurs, but embracing them — that’s the biggest lesson,” said Gutfreund. “At the end of the day that’s the big paradigm shift, learning how to be a retailer with this new rising generation and their new ways of shopping.”
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)