NEW YORK — There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Junior retail executives, especially edgy after last year’s teen spending withdrawal, are peppering the 2003 back-to-school season with enhanced marketing to drive customers back into their stores.
An economy growing in fits and starts and shoppers uninspired by the lack of new styles joined forces over the past year to create a challenging retail scene. However, teen stores are looking for better times this back-to-school season and are taking many actions in hope that customers, who are expected to pump $14 billion into the economy this year on girls and boys b-t-s selling, according to the National Retail Federation, will be at their stores.
After last year’s bummer b-t-s selling, retailers have been forced to find new and creative ways — from repositioning the brand to new advertising campaigns — to drive traffic in the ultra-competitive world of teen retailing.
In addition, retailers are hoping the timing of the $13 billion tax credit checks from Uncle Sam this month to more than 25 million families will add a jolt to teen buying.
“Retailers are making modifications to their marketing plans and are looking for the most effective campaign to drive sales and traffic in the stores,” said Dawn Stoner, specialty retailing analyst with Pacific Growth Equities.
With consumers still minding their purse strings, Stoner said the key for retailers this fall is to rise above the promotional fray to communicate that their fall lineup is new and different in an attempt to compel teens to pick up some merchandise.
Still, with many retailers reporting fall trends that are building on the spring-summer hits like cargo pants and miniskirts, Stoner said another way for stores to differentiate themselves is through shopping environment, customer service and value positioning.
The next few months are almost as important as the holiday selling season for teen retailers. According to a survey by the NRF, families with school-age children will spend $451 on b-t-s items this year, up from $422 spent last year.
Dana Telsey, a retail analyst with Bear Stearns, said she is expecting to see more advertising and creative marketing campaigns like Gap’s ads featuring Madonna and Missy Elliot, as well as more exclusivity in products, like Hot Topic’s rock T-shirts, to drive traffic.She is forecasting junior retailers to perform better this fall than last, when same-store sales fell 1.7 percent in July, 1.5 percent in August and 4.7 percent in September, Telsey said.
Still, retail observers said if companies can build on the recent sales momentum and clean inventory levels, b-t-s stand a chance of a passing grade.
Dallas-based Gadzooks, which went to an all-girls format in July, will offer an expanded apparel offering, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, fragrance and swimwear. The store carries such apparel lines as Candie’s, Bongo, Dollhouse, Hot Kiss and Lucky Brand.
The retailer plans to introduce two major marketing tools in an expanded print campaign for b-t-s in an effort to drive traffic and let customers know about its new format, fresh merchandise and expanded categories, said Paula Masters, president and chief merchandising officer.
Both promotions will be supported by e-mail blasts. The first is an invitation to the new store, encrusted with the company’s new tag line “girl tools” with offerings of six different discounts. The other is an bulk reply card at the center of its magazine ads that reads on the front “Gadzooks has a new look you’ll love, and an offer you can’t refuse” and the other side offers a dollar amount off the total purchase.
“If they shopped [with us] in the past or like what they see in the ad, she will hopefully say I have to go,” Masters said. “With these, we hope to drive a lot of customers in and bring customers back.”
While Gadzooks is in a transitional mode and has said it does not expect to meet its sales plans this b-t-s with its young men’s gone, Masters said she hopes for a gradual improvement, helped by new styles and different interpretation of old ones. Key looks this fall are military, rocker chic, short black skirts and pinstripe pants, as well as leisurewear and activewear.
On the other hand, Pacific Sunwear of California is entering the b-t-s season with momentum, as it heads into July with year-to-date comps up 13.3 percent at PacSun and up more than 30 percent at its younger Demo division.Greg Weaver, chairman and chief executive officer, said he attributes PacSun’s increased focus on its successful young woman’s business over the past year-and-a-half. That attention has bled into other categories like footwear and accessories, and Weaver said the Anaheim-based retailer this fall is now more focused on selling outfits to its female clientele.
“We have our sales staff geared up to wardrobe the girl, pushing for higher average dollar sales and units per transaction,” said Weaver, noting that teen girls tend to buy an entire outfit in one trip. “Our focus is on maximizing the sale to the young girl when she is in the store.”
He also said he feels good about the merchandise assortment for b-t-s, saying it is better than last year’s mix.
“I think we missed some business last year in zipped hooded fleece and were insufficient in a couple of brands which we stocked up on,” Weaver said.
While Gap scored an advertising hit by landing Madonna and Missy Elliott to star in its fall campaign, American Eagle Outfitters has hired Spike Lee and his agency SpikeDDB to direct its TV spot for the b-t-s season. The 15- and 30-second spots, which will air this month and next on cable stations like MTV and Comedy Central, will feature a voice-over by a slam poet while symmetric, split-screen images from the past and present highlight AE’s Reissue Collection.
Richard Claremen, president of Self Esteem, said retailers are becoming aggressive in their promotions and marketing.
“Price is everything and seems to be the M.O. today,” he said. “Whoever has the cheaper price is working in the department store world.”
That being said, he expects the b-t-s season to be strong this year, noting there are a number of good trends, including the retro/vintage looks, monograms and neon colors.
Trendcast The back-to-school season is here and retailers are banking on these trends.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
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)