By  on August 27, 2007

As reports constantly remind consumers and manufacturers that retail sales are down and items once regarded as staples are no longer in big demand, it should come as no surprise that established brands are looking for a way up and out.

For many, the junior category offers salvation. The market is swift, numbers are on the rise, denim is still a sure thing and the target customer is relatively unaffected by high gas prices and a cooling housing market. Teens are spending their own money, earned either from jobs or from the generous hands of mom and dad, and studies show that the age group still spends readily and on a regular basis.

What's more, this year's hike in California's minimum wage, to $7.50 from $6.75, has provided teen customers in the most populous U.S. state with even more money to spend. Without a mortgage to worry about, teens seem unaffected by financial pressure, hitting the mall with the same frequency and determination as ever before. This is good news for the apparel manufacturers exhibiting in the junior sector at WWDMAGIC.

"The teenagers seem to somehow get the money they need to get what they want," said Gloria Brandes, president of BB Dakota. Brandes said that, as a result, business for the Irvine, Calif.-based junior line has been very good.

To keep in step with fast-fashion chains like Forever 21 and H&M, BB Dakota produces an entirely new grouping every two months. Brandes said business has been so good that it has not felt pressure to reduce prices as an incentive for teens to buy. Wholesale prices range from $29 to $79 for the spring collection and from $29 to $130 for the holiday offering. This year, the company is looking for a 25 percent increase in sales over last year, Brandes said, though she declined to provide specific figures. "If it is fashion-right and something they are looking for, they will buy it," she said.

It is bullish growth like this that has made the junior market that much more attractive to outside manufacturers. Seana Pedelaborde spent six years in the accessories market with her A Mano Trading Company line, and made the jump into the junior category this year in collaboration with designer Sergio Alcalá, who has been hailed by Elle magazine as the "Jean Paul Gaultier of Mexico." Under her Babylon label, Pedelaborde reinvented her accessories line into a new brand called Sergio Alcalá for Babylon.

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