AT THE MALL: TEENS TALK TRENDS
Byline: Melanie Kletter / Jennifer Weitzman / Julee Greenberg
NEW YORK — What do teens want?
Funky sweaters, logo T-shirts, jeans and shoes topped the list of teens shopping in two New York area malls during the holiday season.
In an age when retail behemoths such as Gap and Old Navy dominate the retail landscape, many of the young people polled said they are looking for something different, for items that will help them stand out in a crowd.
“I want cool stuff and brands that other kids don’t have,” said Angelica, 16, a shopper at Manhattan Mall in midtown Manhattan. “Music-inspired stores are my favorite.”
Rock ‘n’ roll looks, which burst out in a big way in the junior market this fall and are a large part of spring offerings as well, continue to garner attention. Many mall-goers were on the hunt for studded denim, cropped shirts and other items that seem best suited for a Backstreet Boys concert.
But retailers have their hands full trying to keep up with this demanding demographic. A number of teens said they were fed up with the color pink, which was served to them in large doses throughout the spring, summer and fall. Many teens are well aware of price, and of the value of buying clothes at discount stores and off-pricers, which are not considered the trendiest venues.
Nonetheless, the most popular brands and stores are in large part the ones with the most visible names and advertising budgets. Limited Express, American Eagle Outfitters, Pacific Sunwear of California and Aeropostale were cited most often as teens’ favorite stores. And despite its recent woes, Gap remains a favorite, too. Wet Seal and Hot Topic also are key destinations for the teen set.
Brands with the most clout among teen shoppers include denim labels Mudd, Paris Blues and Mavi, as well as Guess, XOXO and Tommy Hilfiger, although young people are aware of the higher-end offerings.
“I would like to wear Gucci, but I can’t afford it,” said 16-year-old Melissa.
Department stores were not high on the list of most shoppers interviewed, although Nordstrom’s Brass Plum section, Macy’s and Sears were among the established stores teen shoppers said they visited regularly.
“Department stores carry similar clothing to specialty stores, but it just isn’t the same,” said Vanessa, 15. “Department stores are too big, and I prefer specialty stores because they are more convenient.”
“Department stores don’t offer what I need,” scoffed Eliza, 16, a shopper at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J.
On the flip side, Maryanna, 16, said: “I like department stores because you can buy everything in one store, from perfume to sweaters.”
Discount stores are not the most popular retail sites for this demographic, but some teens did mention the value inherent in shopping at less-expensive stores.
“I like Marshall’s and Burlington Coat Factory, where you can get more for your money and they carry brand names,” said Elizabeth, 15.
As fashions continue to get tighter and sexier, fit remains of prime importance in the junior market.
“I don’t like the way many shirts are cut,” observed Marie-Noelle, 17, who cited her favorite labels as Tommy Hilfiger and LEI jeans, and said her favorite store is Wet Seal. “I am looking for more fitted things, not for things that are one size fits all.”
Trend direction for this age group is coming from a variety of sources, but magazines seem to be the biggest influencer. Seventeen and YM were cited as among the most well-read magazines, as well as CosmoGirl and even Vogue, which caters to older shoppers.