Teens’ Choice: Jeans, Sneakers and Downloads

Discussion
Oct 10, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The average teenager spends about $3,400 a year, so marketers are very interested in what kids are thinking and what they are planning to buy.

The results of a survey of 700 teenagers in 11 high schools across the country conducted by Piper Jaffray found that kids are moving away from hip-hop fashions to a more preppy
look and, that when it comes to accessorizing, shoes are the thing.

Jeffrey Klinefelter, a senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, “There is a new fashion cycle: a denim cycle, a little more of a preppy cycle.
It’s replacing the khaki/cargo pants cycle.”

And where are teens looking to buy their new preppy clothes? Abercrombie & Fitch, said Mr. Klinefelter. The fashion retailer known for promoting its clothing by not having
models wear much of anything is far and away the leader in this market, according to the analyst.

One retailer that has fallen out of fashion with kids is The Gap. Piper Jaffray reports the chain fell out of the top 10 stores listed by teens as their favorite store for the
first time since the firm began conducting the research back in 2001. Teenagers see The Gap as a store for older people.

In addition to denim, kids are looking to add more shoes to their wardrobe this year. According to the survey, teens will spend 34 percent more this year on shoes. The brands
they are looking to buy are Nike and Steve Madden.

With fashion, it seems, comes music. Teenagers are also going to continue spending money on tunes, although much of that will be via download. Seventy-five percent of respondents
said they would download music from the Internet. According to Piper Jaffray, more teens have CD players in their rooms than dressers.

Moderator’s Comment: How quickly is the teenage consumer market changing? What must retailers participating in this area do to remain competitive? Can
you cite specific examples of what those who are having success at the moment are doing right?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Teens’ Choice: Jeans, Sneakers and Downloads"


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Tom Zatina
Guest
Tom Zatina
15 years 4 months ago

According to my niece Clare, right now, 12 to 18 months is the amount of time it takes for a clothing fad to catch on in an average high school. A fad usually starts with a retailer offering a new item. Clare thinks that A&F is often a leader but increasingly LaCoste and Polo are getting out front today. From there, it takes a handful of students to get the movement going. The 12 to 18 months is how long it takes for the fad to catch on with both students, and in the retail industry. The popularity or style of clothing usually begins with one store and then spreads to all other stores.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

The top 2 fashion retailers are Hollister and A+F, both part of the same company. Pacific Sunwear is #3 and d.e.m.o. is #5, and both are part of the same company. Nordstrom moved up from #10 to #6, which is a terrific accomplishment, especially for a department store. Best Buy almost equaled the combination of Target and WM for video games, which is great dominance. Three-quarters say they’ll spend less time playing video games, which may seem ominous for Sony and Microsoft, as well as their retailers, but this could change when new platforms are released.

For fashion, girls spend twice as much as boys. The study is 92 pages long, and isn’t available on the Piper Jaffray web site, so I’m summarizing from other summaries about it. The only key finding that surprises me (from the summaries) is the strong showing by Nordstrom.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

I’d caution teen fashion analysts not to draw global conclusions about the Next Kewl Thing. From observations of four teens within my extended household and their friends I can discern at least five trends – all closely linked with popular music and/or culture:

One’s a would-be punk rocker who wears black most of the time and recently traded his baggy cargo jeans for Green-Day-like skin-tight chinos. Another is a death-metal fanatic-slash-sci-fi nerd who wears a pony tail, plaid button-down shirts to school and black t-shirts at home. A third likes hard mainstream pop and dresses like a prepster with an earring. A fourth favors thrift-store fashion, left-wing politics, and indie rock bands.

My partner teaches young urban teens, and she still observes a great deal of hip-hop-influenced dress. From casual observation at a large University campus, I can report that these style trends coexist – like flipping between video music channels on cable TV. Market fragmentation among specialty retail stores naturally follows: Hot Topic, Pac Sun, Nordstrom or Salvation Army Thrift store.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 4 months ago
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m not convinced teens are much different today than they have been for a long time — sure the fashions change, the attitudes, the accessories, but the constant is that teens mostly want to conform to the latest trends, they have short attention spans, whatever their parents do or want is NOT what they want to do or want, and by the time adults figure out what to sell them, the trendsetters are already starting the next trend. IMHO, the real trendsetters are not teens, of course. They are the young adults that teens most want to become. Depending on the era, bikers, surfers, skateboarders, hair bands, Madonna, clubbers, hip-hop artists, strippers (!) have all been the real trendsetters that teens try to emulate. How can a retailer stay on top in the teen market? They are almost by definition doomed as soon as they become successful. The Gap was especially doomed, because they managed to very successfully morph teen/young adult fashions in mainstream fashion,… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

What are trends with this group? I want constant, immediate access to the Internet and my friends. We treasure independence. Therefore, we want to be different. With constant communication, increasing choices, and a desire for independence, this group of people with spending power flaunts their ability to buy what they want. Focus groups and generalizable statistics do not work as well with this group. Observation of groups of teenagers in a variety of local markets, as suggested by previous comments, is a more effective barometer.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Stephan is right on the money. As many of you know I live in Detroit where there hasn’t been a significant downturn in “hip-hop” fashion (and again, Stephan is correct that cargo pants hardly qualify). Time is the surest killer of all fashion — teen or otherwise. One of the problems with the teen market is that too often it’s “hip” adults making the calls and what kid wants to dress the way Mom or dad think they should?

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
15 years 4 months ago

As a disciple of Paco Underhill I believe there are better ways than focus groups. In stores, we should always be watching, listening, and learning. We have “real time” living laboratories that produce irrefutable data daily as opposed to the sterile, unreal vacuums that are focus groups which invite rational answers for what is generally an irrational act (a purchase in a store). To know that A&F is hot again (though still unethically hateful to many of us) and that Hot Topic is cooling off we just have to look at the numbers (same store +21% and -5.6% in September) that are available to all of us. And hey, to keep abreast of change and fickle teens, is it any different than it’s ever been for good merchants?

Be constantly out in the marketplace, be always testing and trying and risk taking. In some ways it is easier today because there is so much good information immediately available and accessible to a buyer wherever he or she is.

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
15 years 4 months ago
What a tough question! Everyone wants the answer. We do lots of consumer and new technology work and it is still a tough question. But there are some clear trends (not fads): younger kids are getting older faster and digital compression is going younger. Most 11 year olds have I-pods and cell phones. In fact, we will soon have I-pod cell phones, with GPS,TV, etc. The net is there is lots of buying power and you see company’s like Coke and Pepsi with “Red Room” at movie theaters or Blue Rooms at Malls trying to figure them out. They like to be on-line all the time, they travel in herds and they always have money (ours!). But we still love them and want to get them more. Loyalty and buzz marketing go a long way and interactivity is key – whether it is through packaging, on-line or at the store. The best example out there I have seen is the new Apple Store in Downtown Chicago. You can go in and touch, try and play… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

First, it certainly depends on the mood of the teenagers, and what strikes them. Secondly, I wouldn’t call khaki/cargo pants as hip hop…not even close. Did anyone know that hip hop music is by far the largest record sales category in the U.S.? What are hip hop kids wearing? Baggy worn down pants, and jeans to their hips.

If denim is the new turn of style, why did Gap eat a lot of denim cloths 6 months ago?

I believe the author of the article is leaving a lot of the research information out. Too many disconnects.

By the way, did the research company interview the Southside of Chicago, and central LA high schools too? Or just New Trier, IL., and Palos Verdes CA. types only? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

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