In tough times, retailers focus on teens

The current economic downturn isn’t just taking a bite out of adult spend­ing — a new study says that teens are also spending less. However, marketers are betting a multichannel approach will help them gain share of wallet with this increasingly digital-focused audience.

Total teen spending on fashion declined nearly 20% this spring on a year-to-year basis, according to a semi-annual research survey from Piper Jaffray. The fashion category represents 41% of the total teen budget in the spring 2008 survey, a drop from previous years.

Parents’ spending on their teen kids also declined year-over-year, from $1,487 each in Spring 2007 to $883 in Spring 2008.

Teens continue to prefer to shop atspecialty stores, which had a 35% share of spend. The Internet’s share among teens has increased from 4% four years ago to 9% this year. Department stores’ share dropped 4% this season, to 14%.

With 73% of teen consumers being cross-channel shoppers, marketing to them across multiple channels is crucial for success, according to Roman Tsunder, president/founder of Access 360 Media. The media company supplies entertain­ment content, via in-store plasma TVs, tomore than 14 teen retailers such as Quik­silver, Journeyz, FYE and Game Crazy. The content includes regular calls to action driving shoppers to retailers’ Web sites.

“If you want to reach the youth mar­ket, you can’t just use traditional media,” Tsunder says.

Earlier this year, Access 360 Media launched, a mobile platform where shoppers can build a personalized product profile, and will send digital coupons to their cell phones from its network of retailers. The open rate among teens for mobile alerts from stores they know is 90% and the redemption rate is up to 30%, says Tsunder.

Foot Locker’s direct-to-consumer chan­nel, Eastbay, recently partnered with Stack Media to leverage the latter’s high school sports content on its Web site.

Eastbay “needs content to appeal to its core demographic [high school athletes] so its Web site becomes stickier and people keep coming back,” said Nick Palazzo, co-founder/CEO of Stack Media.

The payoff could be significant, with Stack Media’s research indicating there are 7.5 million high school athletes out of a total audience of 30 million. More importantly, high school athletes buy more goods than any other teen group because of their need for new equipment. In addition, they are influencers — people who are well-known on their campuses and who others look up to. “If you can reach high school athletes, you reach the whole student body,” Palazzo says.

While JCPenney will slow store open­ings and renovations this year in response to a drop in store traffic, it plans to launch an array of new teen merchandise for back-to-school to ride out the tough times, including a private label brand, Decree; an exclusive brand, American Living; and a national brand, Whitetag.

JCPenney’s juniors departments will be re merchandised and remodeled as part of the initiative, and new brands will also be heavily promoted in back-to-school catalogs and a back-to-school microsite, a company spokesperson says.

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