Big retailers seek teens (and parents)

Having lost shoppers to hip specialty shops, department stores are reinventing themselves to attract both adults and their style-minded children.

J.C. Penney, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kohl's are all adopting approaches — from celebrity-designed fashions to mobile marketing to better fitting rooms — to try to lure young shoppers without turning off their parents.

J.C. Penney, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Kohl's are all adopting approaches — from celebrity-designed fashions to mobile marketing to better fitting rooms — to try to lure young shoppers without turning off their parents.

With consumers cutting back on spending, many retailers have decided the best way to recapture them is to deliver a more cutting-edge experience and trendier clothing to attract their kids. The reasoning: Even as parents tighten their belts, they still spend freely on their children. If kids can get their parents to drive them to stores, the parents will end up shopping for themselves, too.

Middle-class teens, it turns out, represent a fairly recession-proof demographic, with outsize influence on household purchases.

That thinking has led J.C. Penney, long known as "my mom's store," to overhaul its teen merchandising, introduce new brands and redesign its teen departments. The retailer, which slashed its first-quarter earnings forecast by a third late last month and last week posted a larger-than-expected 12.3% March sales drop, will announce the changes today. Many of its rivals are taking similar steps, though the 106-year-old Penney chain, with its core clientele of middle-age and older shoppers, faces an especially stiff challenge and is making the biggest push.

While Penney says it commands the biggest share of the market for 13- to 20-year-old girls and women, CEO Mike Ullmann acknowledges his stores are most popular with teens until they get their own driver's license and credit card. At that point, Penney tends to lose them — until they grow up and return with kids of their own.

"With the teens, we have to capture them with a brand and a look," says Mike Boylson, Penney's chief marketing officer.

Today, teens influence up to an estimated 90% of grocery and apparel purchases, according to studies by digital marketing agency Resource Interactive. Even beyond their sway over household budgets, teen buyers, with their willingness, even eagerness, to spend, are highly sought-after consumers in their own right.

That's especially true in a shaky economy that's cut into sales at most retailers. Exhibit A: the success of Aéropostale, Urban Outfitters and some other youth-oriented specialty shops, which have been outperforming stores that cater more to older shoppers.

Penney, like other department stores, faces an uphill battle. By virtue of its size, it commands a huge share of the teen market, ranking first among mall-based stores for teens, according to market research firm TRU. But TRU trends director Rob Callender notes that those studies ask teens where they shop most often — not where they like to shop most often. Unless it can forge the kind of loyalty from teens enjoyed by such specialty stores as Abercrombie & Fitch and Forever 21, Penney will remain a destination that teens will follow their parents to, not one they'll seek out.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...