COUNTING ON TEEN HABITS

Byline: Julee Greenberg

NEW YORK — Teens still have money and in 2002 they will continue to spend it.
While business in the junior market is down a bit overall, vendors are convinced that business will be strong in the coming months. Much of this thinking comes from the fashion-hungry teens, whose passion for buying clothes remains undaunted and whose disposal income is derived from a variety of sources.
“I do believe that teens tend to be fairly recession-proof,” said Jane Buckingham, president of Youth Intelligence, a teen trend-tracking business. “Parents may be giving their kids less money, but they are getting it from other places, like part-time jobs. However, I am not convinced that business will be that much better next year than it is right now.”
Richard Clareman, owner of Self Esteem, said, “I just think this is a good demographic to be in right now. The clothes are priced so well and no matter what, these girls will find $20 for a new T-shirt.”
Clareman said he continues to receive letters from girls who say they will do anything to afford fashion and this shows in his numbers. Clareman said his five-year-old firm doubled in volume to reach $100 million this year, despite hard economic times. The company’s children’s clothing division grew dramatically: Sleepwear now brings in about $3 million in volume since it launched in June, and in 2002 Clareman said he expects to see overall business rise about 20 to 30 percent.
While Self Esteem is not known for being as trendy as some junior brands, Clareman said he expects to continue doing well in screened, novelty and solid T-shirts, as well as active fleece bottoms.
“Solid Ts are booking well because there are so many printed bottoms out there for spring,” he said, adding that he expects his business in 2002 to be mostly driven by bottoms.
Also in the works for next year is a major advertising campaign for consumer publications and a pursuit of licensing deals for shoes, sweaters, swimwear and accessories.
Skirts will be the hot ticket next year for Unionbay, said Connie Maynard, vice president of sales. Whether they are minis or 38-inch skirts, teens can’t seem to get enough of them, she said.
“The skirt trend really took off when boots became so popular,” Maynard said, “and I am sure this will continue through the year.”
While Unionbay concentrates more on fall advertising than on spring, Maynard said the company has found it most beneficial to advertise directly to their older-teen consumer. The brand will advertise in places like school cafeterias on college campuses for the spring.
Steven Zellman, president of B. Lucid, said fashion leather and suede pieces are key for 2002 in a range of colors, including tie dye. Zellman said three ads are planned for the “seven best girls’ magazines” including Jane and CosmoGirl.
At Coolwear, president Oded Nachmani said knitwear and denim will continue to be popular through the new year, as well as one-shoulder tops, tanks, peasant looks and corsets.
“The popularity of dusters and cardigans will only continue through next year,” he added.
Coolwear just launched jeans after producing only tops for 16 years. Also in the works is a plan to expand the label overseas.
Abby Zeichner, president of Slant, has many plans to further grow the business in 2002. Already popular among trendy teens, Zeichner said her major plan for 2002 is to put on a fashion show in Los Angeles. Partnering with Puma and hoping to gain sponsorship from Red Bull, Zeichner is confident that a show will help to boost business next year.
Also in the works for Slant is a way to bring the music and fashion relationship together by working with record labels to provide clothing to artists.
“I am in talks with DreamWorks and Universal Music Group hoping to dress some of their bands while on tour,” she said.
Active-based junior line Hard Tail is working to add the denim trend to the collection, as well as concentrating on yoga wear and boxing clothes. Dick Cantrell, owner and creator of the brand, said low-rise bottoms are also important for 2002. He is expecting his 10-year-old business to pick up next year, especially as Hard Tail expands its distribution.
“We are now very much a specialty store and gym boutique kind of brand,” he said. “Since New York is a big base for us, we were dramatically affected by Sept. 11. But things have really turned around. People are not buying cruise since they are not traveling as much as last year. The categories have shifted and people are buying more of other things.”
Junior brands with urban roots are also looking to grow next year. Fubu will launch its first fragrance called Plush, and Avirex is planning to expand its women’s line to include more denim and leather sportswear.
Hot items for early 2002 at Fubu include styles that mix fabrics and materials, such as leather with denim and lace, and fur with leather and denim.
Leslie Short, president of marketing, advertising and public relations, said the brand will step up its advertising by continuing to tie entertainment and celebrity events into its marketing strategy. Plans are to advertise in more consumer magazines, such as Teen People, Lucky, Marie Claire and Honey, as well as continue to advertise on TV.
“With Fubu, it’s not about paying a celebrity to wear the clothes, it’s about gaining good relationships with them,” she said.
Mindy Gale, director of advertising for Avirex, said the marketing blueprint for the brand will involve advertising and public relations activities.
“We are planning on doing some print, with more emphasis on outdoor in top markets,” Gale said. “We are also planning promotions such as in-store sweepstakes, and special events will continue throughout the new year.”
Mia Dell’Osso, vice president of design for Avirex, said the spring collection is based on “sexy, sporty” looks from the influence of the entertainment industry.
“Denim is still important, and silhouettes with Eighties and gypsy influences will also be important,” she said. “Also, the use of heavy embellishments with novelty trim, such as leather and lace, are important.”

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