retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times had a story the other day noting that American teenagers seem to be shopping at malls less and less, a trend that could have enormous implications for traditional retailers.

"According to a survey of analysts conducted by Thomson Reuters," the Times writes, "sales at teenage apparel retailers open for more than a year, like Wet Seal, Zumiez, Abercrombie and American Eagle, are expected to be 6.4 percent lower in the fourth quarter over the previous period. That is worse than any other retail category."

The story goes on: "Causes are ticked off easily. Mentioned often is the high teenage unemployment rate, reaching 20.2 percent among 16- to 19-year-olds, far above the national rate of 6.7 percent.

"Cheap fashion has also driven a more competitive market. So-called fast-fashion companies, like Forever 21 and H&M, which sell trendy clothes at low prices, have muscled into the space, while some department stores and discount retailers like T. J. Maxx now cater to teenagers, as well."

And there's something else:

"Online shopping, which has been roiling the industry for years, may play an especially pronounced role in the teenage sector, analysts say. A study of a group of teenagers released in the fall by Piper Jaffray found that more than three-fourths of young men and women said they shopped online.

"Not only did teenagers grow up on the Internet, but it has shaped and accelerated fashion cycles. Things take off quickly and fade even faster, watched by teenagers who are especially sensitive to the slightest shift in the winds of a trend."
KC's View:
One of the things that retailers in every segment have to think about is the likelihood that many young people may have little or no allegiance to traditional shopping experiences. That's not to say they won't go to the store and buy stuff … but they're going to have to be lured there with compelling offerings and experiences. Otherwise, it seems entirely possible that these kids, especially as they get older, get jobs and have far more distractions and commitments than they do now, simply will be looking for the most relevant and convenient shopping options. The New York Times report is just the beginning.