Part 1: Why Teens are Forcing Retailers to Rethink their Brand Experience


Fifteen years ago, apparel retailers weren’t just hawking logo- forward garments. They were our thermometers, letting us know if you were cool. Now, traditionally teen brands like Aeropostale, Pacific Sunwear, Quicksilver, and Wet Seal are declaring bankruptcy left and right. But why?

1. Wrong Location
Many of these retailers raked in most of their early 00’s dough inside Friday-night teen-hangout, the mall. Since their inception, malls served as a local third place. Supplying amenities like movie theaters, jungle gyms, theme-park like rides, ice skating rinks, and the all-important food courts meant that people who came to shop could stay for a lunch or a movie. AND those who came for entertainment could transition from window-shopping to actual purchases. This is no longer the case. Year over year malls look less like the heart of a community and more like the heart of your local cemetery. Crickets.

2. Wrong Styles
Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle and successful lingerie-brand, Aeri are seeing a steady incline in profitability since their switch to a casual, bohemian look that’s much more popular with University- age buyers. However, brands that have remained loyal to the 13-18 age group and their tried-and-true mid-2000’s style aren’t seeing any sign of a turn-around. Successful retailers have already moved passed obtusely-branded wear and embraced fast-fashion. Because brands like PacSun and Aeropostale refuse to adapt in the marketplace and fail to find a key differentiator that brings in new customers, their numbers are continuing to decline at a break-neck pace.

3. Wrong Price Point
Young shoppers are more informed about their options than ever. That means that if your price point isn’t right, they know how to find similar styles at better prices. Namely, fast-fashion store, Forever 21. Many trendy retailers can’t compete with their prices and quick turnaround on inventory. So, when you combine branded styles that don’t inspire and a price point more suited to a young adult, it’s no surprise that these brands are struggling to make sales.

4. The Unanticipated Competition
When you add up all of the elements; location, style, and price point, failure seems inevitable. However, the left-side tackle that no one saw coming is… teens don’t really care that much about their clothes anymore. Experts are finding that while 10 years ago, a big-label branded t-shirt held tons of social capital among young teens, now they would rather spend their money on experiences. Yep. Experiences. Talk about a gut check.

Would you like to hear more? Follow up next week to find out HOW retailers can adjust their brand experience to trigger the interest of teens and young adults.