Teen Retailers Go Younger
By Tom Ryan
American Eagle Outfitters last week opened "77kids," a
new concept targeting apparel for children and babies. According to an article
in The Wall
Street Journal, several teen chains are shifting resources to concepts targeting
kids after finding little luck opening ones targeting adults.
P.S. from Aeropostale,
which targets seven to 12 year-old kids and opened last year, was exceeding
expectations in the first quarter. The company now has 31 P.S. from Aeropostale
stores in 12 states. Last year, it closed Jimmy’Z, a California lifestyle-oriented
chain targeting the 18-to-25 year-old crowd.
Abercrombie & Fitch in January
closed up the last of its Ruehl stores, which had been aimed at men and women
aged 22 to 35. It has been slowly expanding its abercrombie kids concept since
launching it in 1997. Aiming at kids between seven and 16, the retailer
now has 202 abercrombie kids locations. In June, comps at abercrombie kids
were up 14 percent.
Meanwhile, Gap Inc. is said to be in the midst of expanding its
kids and baby lines. It opened GapKids in 1986 and babyGap in 1989.
Eagle itself first tried expanding its base by targeting older customers
with the Martin + Osa brand, which proved unsuccessful and is now winding down.
77kids, which takes its name from the year American Eagle was founded, started
out a year-and-a-half ago as an online offering.
"There are natural synergies," Betsy Schumacher, chief merchandising
officer for American Eagle’s 77kids unit, told the Journal. "We
like to be able to have a customer start with us at birth and stay right through
77kids will feature apparel similar to American Eagle’s own preppy
look, with plenty of denim, fleece and graphic T-shirts.
Dorothy Lakner, retail
analyst at Caris & Co., told the Journal that
she sees potential in the 77kids concept. Said Ms. Lakner, "The stores
are very funky and colorful, and we’ve just been through something of a baby
boom. As the kids grow, you have no choice but to buy clothes for them, even
in a recession, even if parents don’t buy clothing for themselves."
Discussion Questions: Why are teen stores apparently finding more success
with kids concepts over adult concepts? What are the distinct challenges
and benefits of operating pre-teen businesses?