By  on April 10, 2008

The top 10 specialty store chains where female teenagers say they shopped over the past 12 months.

The population of 12- to 19-year-olds is 34 million in the U.S. — roughly the size of the combined populations of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to Teenage Research Unlimited, based in Chicago. The firm recently released "The TRU Study: 2008 Spring Update," which analyzed the habits of teen spending during the past year. "The significant slowing of the economy has a trickle-down effect on teens' disposable income, given that most teens benefit from parental handouts — and many of them garner funds from gifts, allowances and odd jobs," noted the study. Yet U.S. teens still spent just more than $70 on average in a one-week period, down from the $83 reported in the previous fall wave. One staggering statistic: U.S. teens have spent $1.65 trillion over the past 10 years.

1. OLD NAVY
Amount of female teens who say they shopped here in the past 12 months: 40.9 percent

Owned by San Francisco-based Gap Inc., Old Navy has long been known for its low-priced, trendy clothes — making it an ideal destination for teenagers who want to be fashionable on the cheap. Earlier this year, WWD noted that the retailer, which has been struggling in recent years among its competitors, has been reworking its key management, fashion offerings and store formats — including a new logo. Old Navy's spring collection by creative director Todd Oldham includes everything from halter tube dresses and denim capris to sandals and linen tote bags. Meanwhile, women's graphic Ts are going for less than $9, as are the quilted zip hoodies.

2. AMERICAN EAGLE OUTFITTERS
38.7 percent

Though most specialty retailers are feeling the heat of the economic downturn, American Eagle is still managing to attract its fair share of the teen market. The brand is typically at a higher price point than Old Navy, but currently, the spring sales are on at American Eagle. All spring Ts are buy one, get one free, while wrap dresses and strapless dresses are marked down. Other offerings include cropped-sleeve hoodies, embellished camis and denim minis. As of February, parent company American Eagle Outfitters Inc., which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, operated just over 900 stores. Last year, the retailer launched a new fitness collection called aerie f.i.t., and aired an original series, "It's a Mall World," on MTV via its new entertainment platform, 77Entertainment. The company also relaunched its Web site in July.

3. AEROPOSTALE
34 percent

Of the specialty retailers targeted to teens, Aéropostale Inc. has been a winner in terms of financial performance. In March, WWD reported, "The retailer continues to improve merchandise assortment by adding more color and fashion items to its mix." Todd Slater, analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, stated, "Customers have responded positively to the brand's [Southern California]-inspired aesthetic and styles that evoke a Hollister feel, featuring bright colors, palm tree motifs and slimmer fits. Aéropostale's low price model could be stealing share from trading-down consumers." In January, the New York-based retailer launched its Teens for Jeans campaign to benefit the teen nonprofit organization Do Something. The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness on the growing number of homeless teens in the U.S. and Canada.

4. VICTORIA'S SECRET
33.1 percent

The retailer of innerwear, sleepwear, swimwear, women's apparel and a line of beauty products is owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Limited Brands Inc. In November, Victoria's Secret was ranked number two by Brand Keys regarding customer loyalty. "The buzz is big with this retailer — its reputation ranks high, thanks to smart advertising and their use of plenty of well-known supermodels," noted Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys. "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show," which aired in December, featured names such as Heidi Klum, Karolina Kurkova, Adriana Lima and Jessica Stam on its runway.

5. FOREVER 21
28.4 percent

The retailer was originally known as Fashion 21 when it opened in 1984 at just one freestanding location on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Owner and chief executive officer Don Chang and his wife founded the privately held retail chain, which offers cheap and trendy apparel (sometimes too trendy, as several major designers have sued it for copying their designs) and accessories for women and junior girls. Today, Forever 21 has become popular with items such as the Floral Crochet Top ($11.50), the Satin Bomber Jacket ($22.80), the Cupid Floral Tunic ($19.80) and the Satin Lined Floral Dress ($24.80).

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