It’s no secret that teens love denim, and their pursuit of the perfect pair of jeans is a veritable retail odyssey that streaks from specialty chains such as Old Navy, Gap and American Eagle to discounters — especially Wal-Mart and Target — and midtier department store chains such as J.C. Penney and Kohl’s, among others.

Teen consumers ages 12 to 17 are shopping like never before, with estimated spending expected to top $190 billion by 2006, according to Mintel Group in Chicago, a global consumer intelligence firm. Of that amount, a significant portion is spent on fashion, especially denim, with price often secondary to style.

The U.S. denim industry is expected to generate at least $55 billion in 2005, with more than 1,000 major brands on the market. Thirty years ago, there were an estimated eight major denim brands sold at  retail, according to Columbus, Ohio-based Resource Interactive, a marketing and research firm.

An estimated 450 million pairs of jeans are purchased in the U.S. each year and jeans are the most widely produced piece of apparel in the U.S., Mintel reported.

“Fashion and affordability are not an either/or proposition when it comes to teens and their love of denim and fashion, and it hasn’t been for several decades,” said Nita Rollins, executive director of marketing at Resource Interactive. “Teens age 13 to 17 are going for style and are flexing their spending muscles. Style isn’t limited to the high end. Look at the big-box mass merchants such as Target and Wal-Mart, both of which are carrying their own version of designer jeans to much success.”

According to the WWD survey, when asked to choose up to five stores where they regularly shop for jeans, teens’ choices reflected the rest of the population. Penney’s and Kohl’s were the top department stores, Old Navy and Gap led specialty stores, while Wal-Mart and Target were most often cited among discounters.

But when asked to pick the one store where they most frequently sought jeans, price apparently played a greater role: 14 percent of teens and 17 percent of the total survey picked Wal-Mart.

What is the one store where you shop most often for jeans?

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

JEANS
Where do you regularly shop for jeans for yourself?*

(Pick up to 5 stores.)
Department Stores
53%
J.C. Penney
24%
Kohl’s
19%
Sears
11%
Macy’s
9%
Dillard’s
8%
Nordstrom
4%
   
Specialty Apparel Stores
48%
Old Navy
21%
Gap
18%
Lane Bryant
6%
American Eagle
6%
Express
5%
New York & Co.
3%
Abercrombie & Fitch
3%
   
Discounters
44%
Wal-Mart
32%
Target
20%
Kmart
9%
   
Warehouse Clubs
4%
   
Catalogues
5%
   
TV
1%
   
Other Stores
27%
* Among all ages
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