For junior apparel companies, once the price and quality are in place, getting the name known is the essential goal.

It’s no wonder the junior business is so appealing. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of 13- to 19-year-olds is expected to jump from 32 million in 2002 to 34 million by 2010. In the apparel industry, that means there’s room for more brands. American teens spent $172 billion in 2001, up from $100 billion in 1995, said Teenage Research Unlimited of Northbrook, Ill., noting typical teens spend about $104 a week. In all, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. retail spending is generated by teens or someone shopping for them.

Whether it’s a large celebrity-backed company like JLo by Jennifer Lopez or a smaller junior knitwear firm such as Rubber Doll, the goal of almost any junior label is to become a full lifestyle brand, offering teens everything from apparel to home products. What many of these junior companies are learning is that to reach that point takes work, which means developing a quality product at an accessible price point.

  • STAYING STRONG: In a slow economy, the product and the price has to be right. That’s according to Jerri Nagy, co-owner of the New York-based Rubber Doll, who is working to build his new brand. The company prides itself on offering cutting-edge trends in a quality product at a low price point. Although it has primarily been a private label in the past, the launch of Rubber Doll only about a year ago means the firm’s brand-building has just begun.

    “The secret to a good business in this economy is to have good quality at an affordable price,” Nagy said. “There is a lack of newness out there and we are offering only what’s new and hot.”

    But Nagy also finds that providing a proper atmosphere is key. The company just moved into a larger showroom in Manhattan’s Garment District.

    “It’s a great 4,500-square-foot space with music and televisions to add some excitement,” he said. “We really want to provide the buyer with great, quality clothes, as well as the fun of coming in to place orders.”The Seattle-based Kali Wear also is experiencing a good season, and according to Cathy Rae, sales manager and head of merchandising at the three-year-old company, that came with careful planning.

    “We are shipping good quality at low prices, which is so important in this business,” Rae said. “We are also very careful to only take on what we can, without overpromising. The result has been many reorders from the retailers we are already working with.”

  • SMART MARKETING: Jennifer Lopez sure is lucky. She can promote her brand easily by wearing the clothes herself. Besides, her photos are plastered everywhere from movie and television screens to tabloids. But that isn’t the only way the company markets the JLo by Jennifer Lopez brand.

    According to Denise Seegal, president and chief executive officer of the $130 million New York-based firm, advertising in such teen and urban magazines as Teen People, Latina and Vibe has become an important piece of the puzzle.

    “Our national ad campaign features Natalie Martinez, who won our model search last year,” she said. “The reaction in the market has been very strong.”

    Seegal also said she plans to take advantage of the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards for marketing purposes. “This is a great opportunity to make sure our product is on people at the awards,” she said.

    The approach that Lopez has used to market her brand isn’t what works for everyone. For most brands just starting out, money for national ad campaigns just isn’t there, requiring many of them to choose grassroots tactics.

    Such is the case with Mellies, a two-year-old junior knit firm whose claim to fame is its thin knits intended for layering. “We are growing really fast and I think it’s because of what we are offering,” said Melody Culp, president of the Beverly Hills-based company. “We sell a lot of our tops together, so the customer knows how to layer them already without looking not put-together.”

    With this growth, Culp said marketing her brand has become more important than it has been in the past. But because the ad budget still isn’t there, she is using smaller but effective routes to advertise. She said they partner with retailers to offer in-store promotions, giving away bubblegum with the Mellies brand printed on the wrappers.Culp also said she regularly sends celebrities the clothes, hoping they will wear them in public. “The celebrity thing has worked out really well,” she said. “Salma Hayek now wears the clothes all the time.”

  • LOOKING AT LICENSING: Becoming a lifestyle brand isn’t always possible to do solely in-house. That’s why many choose licensing partners. “We really have just begun thinking of licensing,” Culp said. “People have begun contacting us, which is a really great sign. We have yet to sign anything, but eventually we would love to have licenses for accessories, jeans and shoes.”

    Finding the right partners are key. JLo has had great success in that. Besides apparel, the company has licenses for two fragrances, cold-weather accessories, girl’s wear, jewelry and eyewear. It will add on a series of licensed products in the coming months to include outerwear, handbags, belts, small leather goods, intimates, footwear and watches. “Some of the new ones have been signed,” Seegal said. “But others we are still searching for. The partnerships have to be right.”
Show Me the Money
Most teens don’t have well-paying “power jobs,” but with their spending power on the rise, this trend-hungry demographic is getting its money from somewhere. Here, Teenage Research Unlimited breaks down the top five sources of income for teens.

1. Parents
2. Gifts
3. Odd Jobs
4. Part-Time jobs
5. Allowance

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