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The top 10 specialty store chains where female teenagers say they shopped over the past 12 months.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
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
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.
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
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
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).
Launched in 2000 by number-seven-ranked Abercrombie & Fitch Co., this California surfer-inspired retail chain targets a 14- to 18-year-old audience. A prototype Hollister flagship is scheduled to open in Manhattan’s SoHo district in spring 2009, WWD reported in February. Four Hollister stores in the U.K. will open this year as well, marking the brand’s entry into Europe. In addition, “The company started testing personal-care products at 93 Hollister stores last October,” stated Business First of Columbus in February. “The results were promising enough that the line of deodorants, body washes and other bath-and-body products is expected to be in all stores by the back-to-school shopping season.”
7. ABERCROMBIE & FITCH
The brand had a successful 2007: Sales for A&F, which also operates the Hollister and Ruehl chains, were up 13 percent to $3.75 billion last year. “Overall, the corporation owes its success to trend-right merchandise, productivity gains without sacrificing margins, distinctive store experiences, sex appeal and the continued popularity of the A&F and Hollister brands,” WWD stated in February. A&F stores typically target an 18- to 22-year-old audience. Officials said they were scouting high street sites overseas for A&F flagships in Milan, Copenhagen and Paris, as well as Japan, where there is one already under construction on Tokyo’s Ginza district, set to open late next year.
Having enlisted designer brands such as Rodarte, Thakoon and Doo.Ri for limited “Gap Design Editions,” the San Francisco-based retailer is looking to breathe some fresh air into its offerings. This month, Gap will once again be bringing back the limited edition program, having signed on 3.1 Phillip Lim, Band of Outsiders, Michael Bastian, Philip Crangi and Threeasfour for the second round. The initiative is part of Gap’s partnership with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Teen shoppers now can find embroidered and crocheted sundresses in neutral shades, wide-legged sailor pants and printed tank tops in the spring collection.
9. HOT TOPIC
This brand launched in fall 1989 in California as a “music-influenced” accessories business — think fingerless gloves (Billy Idol) or glam metal bootstraps (Poison). Apparel came a year later, after teens started catching the rocker-punk craze. Hot Topic offered essential rocker Ts from bands such as The Cure and Depeche Mode. Underground cartoon, cult movie and comic book Ts soon followed. “Hot Topic brought the world of South Park, Care Bears, Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants and lots of other pop icons into our stores,” the brand stated. For girls, items such as the Hello Kitty Zig-Zag Button tank, the Bob Marley Sing tank and the Barbie Black and Pink hoodie are all available.
Though sales have been sluggish for the skate-and-surf-inspired chain (fourth-quarter revenues fell 7.8 percent to $420.1 million from $455.8 million), teenage females still have the PacSun brand — or Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. — on their radars. Plenty of surfwear is on tap for girls, too — like the Foster Girl boardshorts from Volcom, or the Suzanne Reversible hoodie from Roxy. Other well-known brands in the retailer’s portfolio include Billabong, Hurley and Element. In addition to apparel for both men and women, the brand offers accessories and footwear. There are 824 PacSun stores and 120 PacSun Outlet stores across all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Hot Topic Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty images
source: “The TRU STUDY: 2008 SPRING UPDATE” from Teenage research unlimited; AS PART OF ITS STUDY, THE FIRM ASKED TEENS TO SELECT WHICH SPECIALTY STORES THEY HAD SHOPPED OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS