WHAT THE GIRLS LIKE AND WANT
Byline: Julee Greenberg / Katherine Bowers / Kristin Young
LOS ANGELES — Teens and tweens like music, having fun and shopping with their parents.
It may sound hard to believe, but today’s youth actually enjoy going to the mall with mom. Sure, she has the credit cards, but according to Teenage Research Unlimited’s Michael Wood, it goes beyond that. Teens relate to their parents and enjoy spending the time with them.
“Parents really influence their kids,” said Martine Bury, West Coast editor at YM magazine, “They shop in junior departments together, and in a lot of cases the mom listens to the same music as their child.”
Annette Bethers, senior marketing director of the Glendale Galleria, said: “Parents experience shopping with the kids. They don’t just drop them off anymore. Parents understand their teen more than they did in the past, and the parents enjoy this, since it makes them feel young.”
At Fairchild’s first Teens & Tweens Conference, held March 21 and 22 at Le Meridien Hotel here, this was one of the many points learned about today’s youth. More vendors and retailers want a piece of the $200 billion teen sector, and while the segment can be fickle and risky, it can also be a lucrative market, if approached properly.
According to Wood, teens have money to spend, and in the coming years, there will be more teens than ever. Wood said that by the year 2010, it is estimated that there will be 34.1 million teens living in the U.S., compared with the 31.6 million teens today.
The two-day conference consisted of two keynote speeches by Robert Smith, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Macy’s West, and Robert McKnight, chairman and chief executive officer of Quiksilver Inc., as well as five panel discussions. The final panel consisted of a group of California-based teens and tweens who confirmed the facts of the day. The majority of them said they do, indeed, shop with their parents and ask them for advice on what they buy.
“I usually shop with my mom,” one teen said. “She has pretty good taste.”
Tween-and-teen brothers, Will and Kevin, both acknowledged their mother “knows what looks good.”
The teens were also well-versed in “adult brands,” which they said are higher quality than many teen-specific products. Among their favorite, recent purchases were Diesel jeans, a Fendi bag, Juicy Couture velour sweats, Roxy luggage and Tiffany necklaces.
“Almost everyone in my school has the Tiffany’s heart necklace,” said 16-year-old Jessica.
“Seventy-five percent of those hearts are fakes,” interjected 18-year-old Missy.
Imitation Tiffany aside, Missy said teens are wearing more jewelry and accessories, including large pendants and belts. Natasha, a 17 year-old, said she liked to go to shop-swap meets for “different, original jewelry.”
Malorie, a 12 year-old who looked 16, cited favorite makeup brands as Smashbox, Stila and MAC.
Presenting the firm’s survey data from 2,000 teens and tweens, Wood said, “Aspirational age is dipping down into the tween market. Basically, a 12-year-old wants to be a 17-year-old.”
The tween girl’s emulation of pop stars, TV personalities and older siblings means she wants to wear the same sassy looks as her idols.
According to findings in the Fairchild-TRU Omnibus survey of 850 youths ages eight to 18, tweens are more enthusiastic about shopping in mass retailers than teens, who become more conscious of brands and personal style as they mature.
“The younger customers are out shopping more often than teens, as well,” Wood added. “Parents believe the mall is a safe place to take them.”
In terms of tweens and specialty stores, Sharon Segal of Fred Segal Santa Monica, and Digna Rodriguez-Poulton, owner of Daisy & Lilly in Westwood, N.J., said it’s crucial to create an environment friendly to both tween and mom, who often shop together.
“We create a day environment. We have kids making jewelry, while mom shops for her Frankie B,” said Segal, citing the popularity of jeans and T-shirt customization stations with tweens.
Because vintage merchandise appeals to both generations, Rodriguez-Poulton courts mother and daughter with vintage tutus in Daisy & Lilly’s dressing room and antique chandelier prisms hanging from the ceiling. Girls can purchase similar items for their own rooms at a crystal station.
A birthday gift registry has pulled in shopping moms during the day when tweens are in school and traffic would otherwise be slow, Rodriguez-Poulton said.
She plans to open 10 more units of the year-old Daisy & Lilly concept in the next four years.
Where Teens Shop:
1. Old Navy
2. J.C. Penney
7. American Eagle
The Brands to Watch:
2. Phat Farm
3. Red Bull
4. Sean John
5. Mountain Dew Code Red
The Coolest Brands:
4. Abercrombie & Fitch
5. Old Navy
6. American Eagle
9. Tommy Hilfiger
Who They Are And How To Influence Them?
Panel: Annette Bethers, senior marketing director, Glendale Galleria; Brad Fox, director of artist development, Virgin Records America; Scott Fuller, vice president of brand management, The Walt Disney Co.; Martine Bury, West Coast editor, YM magazine; Mark Rucker, president, TMG Sports; Samantha Skey, vice president of sales and marketing, Alloy Inc.
There are a variety of ways that teens and tweens can be influenced into buying a product. However, the vendor or retailer must speak to them in a way they can understand without being condescending.
“When you speak to them, it must be authentic,” Bethers said. “You must speak in their language, but don’t even try it if you don’t understand it.”
Cross-branding is a smart way to get the point across. At Virgin Records, for example, the company has done this numerous times.
“When there is a great product out there that you can associate with an artist, both brands win,” Fox said. “With the XBox, for example, if we were to associate an artist with it, the game is cool, so the artist is cool.”
In a recent promotion, Virgin paired one of its artists, D’Angelo, with a powerful denim brand, Levi’s, to promote each brand.
“When you market two brands that are not competitors, but are reaching the same audience, it can be very successful,” Fox said.
Other important points:
Get inside the lifestyle of today’s youth, such as learning what music they like, what they wear to school and what they do at the mall.
Through online polls and surveys, find out directly from them what the consumer wants to buy.
Stock products that make the customer think it was them who created the trend.
The product should appeal to the parents, as well as the young person.
How To Get Ahead And Stay There.
Panel: Izzy Ezrailson, president, Up Against The Wall; Mary Boncutter, president and co-owner, R&S Trading Co.; Sandy Cataldo, president, Jane Cosmetics; Richard Clareman, president, Self Esteem Clothing; Carrie Harris, merchandise manager for retail consulting firm Directives West; Howard Mensch, president and ceo, Tractor Brand; Laura Willson, vice president, One Clothing Inc.; Theresa Scott, sales director, Sean John.
Moderator Ezrailson kicked off with a “trend curve” showing the successive waves as a trend builds from street quirkiness to the middle-American masses. Vendors pondered the age-old question: how to retain those edgy, leading customers, while selling tons of stuff to the masses. Key points:
Teen cosmetics, a relatively new market niche, is ripe with opportunity, but needs to be faster and more fashion-focused to match teens’ lifestyles. Boncutter said she’s going to apply sportswear practices of having something new each month to growing R&S Trading’s Sugar Cosmetics line of sweet-smelling beauty products.
Remember how tight the teenage budget is, but don’t forget the season’s crucial extras, whether it’s smocking, ruching or a freebie belt. According to Willson, One Clothing’s customer has “$20 in her pocket. That’s got to get her something to wear to impress her friends and maybe a guy.”
Mensch recommended watching the shoe market in South America and Europe, a directional sector useful for early indications on bottoms trends. “They dictate how jeans will be styled,” he said. “For instance, you start seeing platforms, you think bell-bottoms and flares.”
Check out the competition’s customers. Ezrailson said he chooses locations in the mall close to fast-growing chain Forever 21 and then watches what girls entering the shop are wearing. He also advised “listening for the key words” teens use to describe their style and said those key terms are important in “getting into the psyche of a trend movement.”
Get close to your customer at malls, football games, concerts and through the Internet. Self Esteem asks customers to submit design sketches for tops they want. “We do that to see where their heads are,” said Clareman.
Design for directional retail accounts and let the rest follow. “We don’t really follow the big guys,” Scott said. “We design for our core urban accounts.”
How To Grow Your Brand Without Weakening Its Roots.
Panel: Richard Baker, ceo, Ocean Pacific Apparel Corp.; Julie Coluccio, executive vice president, Mecca USA; Elaine Hughes, president, E.A. Hughes & Co.; Angelo Ponzi, president, Board-Trac Inc.; Dan Raskin, chief operating officer, Akademiks; Gary Schoenfeld, president and ceo, Vans Inc.
“Kids all want to be different, just like their friends,” Schoenfeld said, to sum up young people today. He has been concentrating on restructuring the Vans brand and growing it and said what he has learned from this is that it is critical to know the distribution of the brand as it grows.
“Ask yourself, ‘Who shops in these places?’ Because this can make or break the brand you are building,” he said.
As far as licensing is concerned, not every brand should do it. A license should make sense for the brand and should serve a purpose.
“A license should do three things,” Schoenfeld said. “It should make your brand cooler, create more brand awareness and extend distribution.”
Other important points:
Have a strong brand as a role model and learn from its successes, as well as its mistakes.
Look at employees as assets rather than expenses.
Research for the sake of conducting research does not benefit the brand. Use it wisely. Use focus groups to explore ideas rather than to define a market.
When building a brand, there is pressure to place product everywhere, but keeping control of distribution is wise.
When licensing, pick relationships carefully. If the licensee is not an expert in the category, stay away.
The Next Retail Opportunity And Where To Find It.
Panel: Haim Kedmi, owner and president, Active Wearhouse and Transit stores; Cindy Levitt, vice president and general merchandise manager, Hot Topic; Digna Rodriguez-Poulton, president, Daisy & Lilly; Shaheen Sadeghi, ceo, The Lab Antimall and The Camp; Sharon Segal, owner, Sharon Segal at Fred Segal; Andrea Weiss, president of Delia’s Corp.
The summit singled out these retailers for creating special retail environments, all the more valuable in a time when throngs of look-alike stores, chains and ubiquitous malls are the norm.
Conclusion: Shopping environments do more than convey a brand; they are extensions of the brand. Several in the panel asked manufacturers to keep them exclusive to further differentiate their stores.
What’s relevant now: Stores that provide the teen consumer with a highly interactive, personal shopping experience have the competitive edge.
Hot Topic communicates with teens, in part, because it portrays itself as independent and rebellious, even though it is a publicly held 320-unit chain. “We appear to scare parents, but we are so parent-friendly,” said Levitt, pointing out that there are no drug or sex references in the store’s merchandise. Hot Topic will open 70 new stores and 15 plus-size Torrid concepts this year.
The Camp, a highly stylized outdoor sports retailing complex in Costa Mesa, Calif., with anchors Billabong, Adventure 26 and Patagonia, integrates community, culture and commerce. A pool serves to entertain customers, as well as to test products. Yoga classes, health food restaurants and bike paths also encourage consumers to do more than shop.
Daily & Lilly, a tween store in a renovated Victorian house, found its brightly colored and fanciful decor struck a chord with tweens and moms.
So, to broaden the appeal of its assortments, the retailer began selling Benjamin Moore paint and vintage chandelier prisms hanging from its ceiling. The idea proved “very successful,” according to owner Digna Rodriguez-Poulton. “Americans define ourselves by purchases.”
Transit, a store in Manhattan that looks like the inside of a subway train station. Consumers can buy odd merchandise, along with traditional activewear labels such as Puma and North Face, to create their own look. “My word to designers is screw something up and then show it to me,” said Kedmi. “If it doesn’t make sense, I want to see it.”
Serving teens and their mothers at the same time is the goal at Sharon Segal’s shop at Fred Segal. A bead counter where fledglings can make jewelry, for example, keeps them busy while mom tries on a pair of jeans. Similarly, a glassed-in wall along the store’s adjacent cafe shows the latest trends so noshers will venture inside the store after lunch. For the store to maintain its trendy reputation, “we have to be too early [with new merchandise],” said Segal. Even if a particular trend doesn’t sell well during the first go-around, “the consumer will remember you had it first,” she said.
For Delia’s Corp., the challenge has been to match its retail environment to the $100 million catalog operation the consumer has seen for years. Delia’s will add 20 more stores to its existing roster of 47 units this year. Stores will be located principally east of the Mississippi in the Carolinas and Florida. Although a few doors will open in Texas, there are no plans to open stores further west, according to Weiss. The New York-based junior firm currently sends out 40 million catalogs annually.