Teens’ seemingly undiminished buying power is fueling junior and young contemporary success.
This story first appeared in the August 26, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
According to makers, teen shoppers remain blissfully unaffected by a tough economy. While their parents may be having a tough time in the job market, many teens are holding down babysitting positions and other part-time jobs. Of course, they have few if any bills to pay, and rent’s certainly not an issue.
So, what are they spending their money on? Two things: the hottest new CDs and the coolest clothes.
But when it comes to the clothes they buy, teens are probably one of the most fashion-conscious of any shopper demographic.
For fall, they are buying suede fringe coats, bohemian-inspired blouses and knit sweaters and, of course, jeans, jeans and more jeans. Whether they are embellished with novelties like grommets, sequins or beads or just basic five-pocket styles, teens just can’t seem to own enough denim.
Now that junior and young contemporary makers have been fueled by a successful back-to-school season, they are looking forward to strong orders for the spring season ahead. After all, what teen could stand to be seen in last spring’s duds?
l “The junior market is really amazing,” said Bonnie Sussman, vice president of the New York-based B Lucid. “They spend their money on clothes and music and that’s it.”
For the three-year-old B Lucid, which does a great deal of private label for junior retailers like Delia’s, Sussman said that business is better today than ever. In the middle of summer, the company is booking outerwear, something typically unheard of during the hot summer months.
“Outerwear is really doing so well. We already have a 50 percent sell-through on our fringe suede coats,” Sussman said. “Fourth quarter is the typical outerwear season, so if we are shipping it already in this heat, can you imagine how great it will be later?”
In addition to the company’s strong outerwear business, B Lucid’s newly launched plus-size line is also taking off.
“We are doing a great business with Lane Bryant,” she said. “Our plus-size division fits right into their new strategy of being younger and more fashion conscious. Also, Ashley Stewart is running ads with our stuff in it.”
Sussman also noted the strength of the company’s denim line, Sawary. The company is working with current specialty store clients to hang denim in their stores. For example, Wilson’s Leather, a regular leather customer, is hanging part of the Sawary collection to work with its outerwear.
“With Wilson’s, we started them out with jeans that had leather patches,” she said. “It was just one style, so they could see how they sell. They really did well, so they ordered some other styles.”
l At Dollhouse, a New York-based junior denim house, there is little to complain about. Edward Ash, the company’s licensing director, said the brand is going through a major growth period expected to continue over the next six to eight months, with the help of an upswing in licensed products and a major advertising campaign in the works.
“I think we have really found our niche in the junior business by becoming known for our novelty jeans,” Ash said. “Buyers are always asking what’s different about us. They want merchandise that’s a little exclusive.”
To boost its new product lines, Dollhouse has done quite a bit of marketing. Last season, the company launched a print ad campaign featuring Def Jam recording artist Christina Milian wearing Dollhouse gear. After more stores started taking notice of the brand, the company stretched its advertising strategy even further by launching a new full-blown campaign, aimed at the fall edition of magazines including Honey, Seventeen and YM. The campaign features three up-and-coming young singers signed to Columbia Records: Amerie, Jade Anderson and Rose Falcon. Each singer will be featured in her own separate ad, as well as on kiosks throughout Manhattan.
While a company spokeswoman couldn’t give the details, she did admit that Dollhouse is in talks with the label to develop separate denim lines to reflect each girl’s style. Also in the works: appearances by today’s hottest young R&B singers, Ashanti and Brandy, at the Dollhouse sections at Macy’s Herald Square and Nordstrom’s South Coast Plaza locations for autographs on Sept. 7 and 21, respectively.
Ash said he plans to sign more licenses in the coming months to add to the mix of handbags, lingerie and shoes already licensed. The company continues its quest for a licensee to work on a Dollhouse home collection.
“With licensing, you really have to be careful to find the right people who understand the merchandise,” he stated.
Last but not least, the company’s New York showroom was recently redesigned in order to showcase apparel with accessories.
l A popular brand in the Eighties, New York-based Jordache relaunched just a couple of years ago with a new image to mark its comeback.
Today, according to Michael Riego, senior vice president of advertising at Jordache, business is building. Sure, it helps that the vintage trend is in full force. But according to Riego, the brand not only has an exclusive junior denim collection with Wal-Mart (which began in 1996) exceeding the company’s projections by 20 percent, but it also produces Gasoline jeans and the Fubu ladies collection. Even more recently, it launched a higher-end denim line, also carrying the Jordache label.
“The jeans are now carried in department stores,” Riego said. “It used to be only in specialty. The high-end price point is now a million-dollar business for us.”
Also on tap is a new television and print ad campaign planned for fall. This will be the company’s second round of ads since the relaunch. Last year, Jordache reintroduced itself with a print and TV campaign that capitalized on its retro feel.
While the new print campaign broke in September issues of teen magazines like Teen People, YM and Seventeen, the TV spots will air beginning in October. Since the TV ads have yet to be finalized, Riego said he couldn’t release details, but did say it will be a play on reality TV. As for advertising the high-end label, ads will appear in Latina and Honey magazines, as well as on billboards in Manhattan.
l For Michael Silver, owner and president of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Silver Jeans, business in the young contemporary category remains on an upswing, but one never knows what might happen.
“I remain cautiously optimistic about business,” Silver said. “As a denim maker who has been around a while, I have seen many brands come and go.”
While Silver said he has seen other vendors go out of business in the past, he doesn’t worry too much about where his company will be in the coming years.
“My business went up for six years straight,” he explained. “And then last year, it went flat. Now it’s up again. I guess when you set your sights lower, you come out higher.”
Silver made some changes in the past year in order to jump-start his numbers, he said. First of all, he has devoted about 1 percent of the company’s volume to print ads in carefully selected books. For example, a print ad featured in a recent issue of Seventeen noted the availability of the Silver brand at Buckle, a junior specialty chain that’s one of Silver Jeans’ best clients.
Also, at the WWDMAGIC show last February, Silver decided to move his booth from the men’s wear side to the women’s wear section of the show.
“When I moved to women’s, I saw really great results,” he said.