NEW YORK — The reports of the demise of the junior market are greatly exaggerated, according to Ady Gluck-Frankel.
As president of Necessary Objects, a company with an estimated $60 million in wholesale volume, Gluck-Frankel thinks the market is poised for explosive growth over the next year, despite the shrinking number of retailers who carry what she refers to as “young contemporary.”
She’s predicting a significant increase in 1994, but declined to give an exact percentage.
“Our business is on a growth pattern, and I really believe it’s consumer-generated. Our market is in the same position as children’s was seven years ago,” she said, referring to the age group now entering adolescence.
But Gluck-Frankel feels the consumer base for her clothes isn’t limited to young women. With its weekly shipments of cutting-edge clothes, Necessary Objects is aiming at all women who want a new look but don’t want to spend a lot of money. Styles wholesale from $9.75 to $38.75.
“At the risk of quoting a cliche, you don’t have to have a lot of money to be fashionable,” Gluck-Frankel said. “Clothes should help us fulfill some fantasy about ourselves. Why can’t you buy pieces the way you buy shoes, where you know you’re only going to wear them for one season?”
For retailers who are still working the junior market, business is going to be “phenomenal,” she predicts — but there still remains a lot to be changed.
“The reality is, we get the worst space on the floor, and the least amount of salespeople, but we’re expected to perform at incredible margins and incredible terms,” she said. “Our departments’ gross margins are, on average, 6 to 8 percent higher than misses’.”
The situation can be even worse in branch stores, she said, depending on each store’s manager.
Retailers doing juniors well, according to Gluck-Frankel, include Bloomingdale’s, the Los Angeles-based chain Contempo Casuals, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Strawbridge & Clothier.
Gluck-Frankel cited Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of fashion direction, as a retail executive who “makes things happen.”
“You really need support on the store level.” she said.
“I think Necessary Objects is an incredible firm to do business with,” said Ruttenstein. “The product has so much value for the money, and Ady Gluck-Frankel is one of the most talented designers I’ve worked with in the American sportswear market. She covers the fashion capitals of the world, knows international fashion, and knows how to interpret it for the mass market.”
Ruttenstein said that while Bloomingdale’s has carried the collection for a number of years, he only began working directly with Gluck-Frankel in the last year or so. He cited their collaboration on developing exclusive merchandise that is turned around quickly as an example of successful teamwork. Ruttenstein also agreed with Gluck-Frankel that there’s room for growth in the junior-young contemporary area. He said the store had an 80 percent sell-through in two weeks of the Necessary Objects pieces shown in window displays using an “armchair athlete” theme.
“The line is a young look but also a look that older women who are small buy,” Ruttenstein said. “And it’s great fun to be able to sell a line that sells in all stores, not just in the flagship. There’s a message there for others, I would think, that there is a lot of fashion business to be done at those price points.”
Macy’s East is positioning its junior business more aggressively, Gluck-Frankel noted, and Merry-Go-Round isn’t going to sink out of sight. The junior chain is “changing its strategy and successfully going forward, getting more into real clothes,” she said, adding, “That doesn’t mean boring clothes, just clothes that have a broader appeal, that more people are comfortable wearing.”
Gluck-Frankel’s approach is to come up with an overall concept and then work that out in specific styles. This season she felt that a long-over-short silhouette was “the big idea, but how that’s interpreted can vary — is it a flippy skirt, pleated, a kilt, a skort?”
Another element for her market is getting into young women’s magazines such as Seventeen, YM and Sassy, which Gluck-Frankel said “create the appetite, 100 percent.”
“They validate, they perform, they project and they teach,” she said. “Magazines do a great job to entice you. But they have to make people say, ‘I have to have that,’ rather than ‘You have to be kidding.”‘
Mindy Gale, vice president and creative director at Graphtech Group, which handles Necessary Objects’ advertising, noted that the company’s second-half ad schedule will shift to print.
“We were on key billboards and telephone kiosks last year,” said Gale. “I feel right now that we need to get back into some magazines. The outdoor advertising gave us great awareness, but I think we need to get back to some personal interaction with the consumer.”
As for spotting the coming trends, Gluck-Frankel feels it’s an intuitive sense that develops from shopping the stores, going to clubs, traveling and reading magazines. The typical teen bellwethers, she said, don’t work.
“It has nothing to do with MTV,” she said. “It has to do with making real clothes that have an element of fun.”