A NEW TEEN SCENE
FASHION SPENDING BY TEENS IS RISING STEADILY, BUT EARNING THEIR PATRONAGE ISN’T EASY.
Byline: Ira P. Schneiderman
NEW YORK — The teen girl’s market in many ways hasn’t changed much over the years, yet in some fundamental areas critically important to fashion retailing, there’s a new teen scene.
That was the word from Lois Huff, principal consultant with the PricewaterhouseCoopers retail practice based in Columbus, Ohio, reflecting findings from an upcoming report titled “Teen Fashion Industry Outlook” by the company’s Retail Intelligence System, which is slated to be published this month. The report explores the shopping behavior and attitudes of teens age 13 to 18 based on a survey conducted in May among 1,000 American teens.
“First among the findings is the market opportunity for retailers,” said Huff. “The survey indicates that more than $22 billion will be spent this year on fashion goods for teens ages 13 to 18, including spending on clothing, footwear, accessories, costume jewelry and personal beauty products.”
Huff also stated that teen fashion spending will continue to accelerate as the economy proceeds down the path of prosperity and will be further boosted by growth in the teen population. The number of 13-to-18 year-olds will grow every year until 2009, with a 7 percent increase in the teen population over the course of the decade, according to company data.
Huff pointed out that “despite the hype about the Internet’s appeal, teen girls aren’t abandoning the brick-and-mortar store. Instead, they are fully committed to real-world shopping.”
Although one out of three teen girls recently shopped at an online clothing site, fewer than 4 percent bought any clothing online, she said. Instead, teen girls are more likely to use the Internet to dialog with other teens or learn about fashion trends.
Meanwhile, a separate study of teenage purchasing online conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in April showed roughly 26 percent of teenage Internet users regularly go online to shop, but only 2 percent claimed shopping as their primary reason for going online.
The survey indicated that when it comes to clothing browsing and buying, the action is in the store, particularly in apparel specialty stores. Almost half of all teen girls buy most of their clothing at an apparel specialty store, and more want to do so, Huff said.
“Nearly two out of three say that their favorite clothing store is an apparel specialty store,” she noted.
Teenage girls also buy clothing at several other types of retail venues.
“One out of four buy most of their clothing at a discount department store, while a similar share buy most of their apparel at a moderate or traditional department store,” Huff said. “Regardless of where they’re shopping, teen girls are doing so with gusto. Teen girls overwhelmingly enjoy shopping for clothing and shopping at malls, and most are shopping at malls more this year than last.”
However, Huff pointed out that despite their strong fashion and shopping bent, earning the teen girl’s patronage isn’t easy. They are highly competent shoppers, with most preferring to help themselves instead of relying on a salesperson. In fact, most teens distrust the advice of salespeople and would prefer that it not even be given.
“Furthermore, the survey indicates that they have a low level of tolerance for shoddy sales help,” Huff said. “If they are treated poorly by a sales associate, most won’t return to a store, even if it is one of the most popular teen stores.”
In addition, retailers targeting teen girls must invest in creating a store environment that appeals to their shopping style, she said. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to pay attention to in-store clothing displays. They are also more likely to prefer a store that has lots of energy and excitement.
From a brand perspective, the teen girls market is extremely competitive, with no clear winners, Huff noted. An equal share of teen girls buy discount store clothing brands such as Wrangler, specialty store brands such as Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, and other department store, specialty stores, or designer clothing brands such as Calvin Klein and Lucky.
The survey confirms that while teen girls care about fashion trends, they also care about price. Huff noted that price is the most important factor when teen girls choose a store to shop for their clothes. It is most important that the store carry clothing priced within a teen’s price range.
Many retailers incorrectly assume that teens are fickle shoppers who jump from store to store. The reality is that most teen girls stick with their favorite clothing retailers and shop the same one or two stores first when they make a clothing shopping trip.
“Teens are actually quite willing to commit if the retailer gives them something worth committing to,” Huff added.