Teens’ shop­ping habits more like their par­ents

The China Post - - FEATURE - BY ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

Gi­u­lia Pugliese is a typ­i­cal teenager. She likes to look good, and she’s par­tic­u­lar about what she wears.

But when The As­so­ci­ated Press fol­lowed the 15- year- old from Long Is­land on a re­cent back-toschool shop­ping trip with friends, she left a Nike store empty-handed — even though Nike is one of her fa­vorites. The rea­son?

“I buy on sale be­cause it’s stupid to buy a pair of shorts for US$60,” said Pugliese, who in­stead looks for the “Swoosh” logo in dis­count stores like Mar­shalls.

Teens are shop­ping like their par­ents dur­ing the back-to-school sea­son, and that’s putting a lot of pres­sure on re­tail­ers to change the way they mar­ket to them. Gone are the spend­ing sprees, start­ing weeks be­fore school bells ring. More teens are thrifty nowa­days, a habit picked up from their re­ces­sion-scarred par­ents.

To­day’s kids re­cy­cle more clothes from the pre­vi­ous school year, mix­ing and match­ing the old with the new for dif­fer­ent looks. They also shop year-round for things they need so they’re spend­ing less money this time of year.

When they do buy, they’re less likely to get any­thing that’s not on sale. And the num­ber of kids who’ll re­use last year’s items rose to 39 per­cent from 26 per­cent be­tween 2011 and 2015, says a Deloitte LLP poll of 1,000 par­ents.

And when teens shop, they’re spend­ing less. Fam­i­lies with school-age kids, on av­er­age, are ex­pected to spend US$ 630.36 this year, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of 6,500 by the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion. That’s down 6 per­cent from last year and re­sults have reg­is­tered declines for four out of the past seven years.

Over­all, back-to-school spend­ing this year should hit US$42.5 bil­lion, up 2.1 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to The Re­tail Economist, a re­search firm. That’s much lower than the 5 to 6 per­cent av­er­age gains typ­i­cally seen in a healthy econ­omy.

Teens’ be­hav­ior is an ex­ten­sion of how their par­ents learned to shop since 2008 when re­tail­ers pushed dis­counts to en­tice peo­ple to buy dur­ing the down­turn. That helped lure shop­pers, but it also got them ad­dicted to deals. The shift made it dif­fi­cult for stores to make money be­cause dis­counts cut into prof­its.

Such be­hav­ior has cut into sales from July through Septem­ber, the sec­ond big­gest shop­ping pe­riod of the year be­hind the win­ter hol­i­days. Sales dur­ing that pe­riod were 24.9 per­cent of to­tal sales an­nu­ally last year, down from 25.8 per­cent in 2003, ac­cord­ing to The Re­tail Economist.

“Con­sumers are send­ing a mes­sage to re­tail­ers that says ‘the back-to-school shop­ping sea­son just isn’t that im­por­tant any­more,’” says Deloitte’s Ali­son Paul.

The shift is chang­ing how stores mar­ket to teens. Whereas stores’ pro­mo­tions would end around La­bor Day, they’re now ex­tend­ing them through Septem­ber. They’re also pulling to­gether com­plete out­fits from dif­fer­ent brands in stores to make it eas­ier for teens to buy looks. And they’re us­ing so­cial media cam­paigns to be more easily dis­cov­ered by teens.

To ob­serve teens’ new be­hav­ior, the AP fol­lowed Pugliese; her cousin, Ari­anna Schaden, 14; and two friends, Is­abella Ci­mato, 17, and Sofia Har­ri­son, 15, at Roo­sevelt Field mall in Gar­den City, New York. Here are some ways teens are shop­ping dif­fer­ently, and

how re­tail­ers are ad­just­ing:

They’re in No Rush to Buy

Teens aren’t im­pa­tient about shop­ping. Although they started shop­ping weeks early, the four teens plan to de­lay buy­ing things they don’t need im­me­di­ately, like jeans, un­til well af­ter school starts and the weather cools. In fact, they’re plan­ning to spend about half of their back-to-school bud­get of about US$400 af­ter school be­gins.

Ci­mato didn’t buy any­thing at all that day. Har­ri­son, who bought just a few shirts, said: “To be hon­est, it’s not that big of a deal be­cause I shop year round.”

Be­sides that, they want big dis­counts. Dur­ing their shop­ping trip, Schaden found a US$58 romper she liked, but de­cided to leave the mall with­out it.

“I think I buy on sale be­cause my mom never buys some­thing un­less it’s on sale,” she said.

In re­sponse to this new think­ing, Macy’s and J.C. Pen­ney are now stag­ger­ing back- to- school pro­mo­tions through Septem­ber. Pen­ney also is in­creas­ing the back-to-school mer­chan­dise it car­ries in late Au­gust and Septem­ber. That in­cludes denim, back­packs, and ba­sics such as un­der­wear.

And Hollister, a di­vi­sion Aber­crom­bie & Fitch, says it of is tim­ing deals on items that shop­pers most want at that time. Right now, it’s pro­mot­ing trendy tops and T-shirts with graph­ics, for in­stance.

They’re Smarter Con­sumers

Teens aren’t roam­ing around at the mall for kicks dur­ing backto-school. They’re re­search­ing the looks they want online and fol­low pop­u­lar hash­tags on so­cial media so they can piece to­gether looks be­fore they get there. Google says its im­age searches for “school out­fit” have grown dra­mat­i­cally dur­ing the past three years, and soared 76 per­cent in July.

Ci­mato, who re­searched denim tops and items with fringe on In­sta­gram, said: “I pretty much know what I am look­ing for.”

That presents chal­lenges for re­tail­ers that are afraid teens will by­pass their stores be­cause they’re fo­cused on items they al­ready want to buy. So, re­tail­ers are try­ing to get teens’ at­ten­tion be­fore they are in stores.

Macy’s is iden­ti­fy­ing key trends and hash­tags on so­cial media that are get­ting lots of fol­low­ers. It now high­lights shoe trends us­ing the pop­u­lar hash­tag FWIS, which means “from where I stand.”

The re­tailer also is putting to­gether more looks from var­i­ous la­bels to cre­ate out­fits and dis­play- ing them on man­nequins or ta­bles in the teen depart­ment in­stead of show­ing them by mer­chan­dise cat­e­gory. These in­clude looks teens haven’t nec­es­sar­ily seen on so­cial media.

Pen­ney uses Pin­ter­est per­son­al­i­ties like Kather­ine Ac­cettura and Mai Phung who are in­flu­en­tial among teens to mar­ket its backto-school fash­ions. The com­pany says it sees up to 500 times more re-pins than if it pro­moted the prod­uct it­self.

A Unique Look

Teens no longer want to be car­bon copies of each other. Now, kids, inspired by what they see on In­sta­gram and the like, want to per­son­al­ize hot looks.

“I’m not a big fan of lo­gos,” Har­ri­son said. “That’s dis­tract­ing to my style.”

That be­hav­ior makes it hard for re­tail­ers to dic­tate spe­cific looks. That means re­tail­ers have to do more mar­ket­ing to at­tract teens.

Pen­ney’s back- to- school ad cam­paign called “Bend the Trend” tries to show how easy it is to put to­gether trends for a per­son­al­ized style. And like many teen re­tail­ers, Hollister has scaled back its lo­goed mer­chan­dise.

“To­day, the cus­tomer is the cen­ter of ev­ery­thing we do,” said Hollister pres­i­dent Fran Horowitz.

AP

(Right) In this July 27 photo, Sofia Har­ri­son, 15, holds up clothes for her friends to see while shop­ping at Roo­sevelt Field shop­ping mall in Gar­den City, New York.

(Left) In this July 27 photo, Sofia Har­ri­son, 15, right, and some of her friends browse cloth­ing at a shop­ping mall in Gar­den City, New York.

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