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Teens Want A Change! Surf-and-Skate Fashions Are Declining

Well, looks like teens are getting tired of their usual baggy sweatshirt and surf-and-skate style!

WWD reports that specialty stores for tweens and teens ages 13- to 19-year-olds, are struggling in the fashion market as consumers grow tired of the Americana and surf-and-skate fashions they’ve been purchasing for years. It seems as though teens are searching for a new look and the clothing stores are getting a little antsy about it considering back-to-school is just around the corner.

Fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 have seen a rise in their sales as their looks change every six weeks or less.

According to Hana Ben-Shabat, a partner in the retail practice at the A.T. Kearney consulting firm, between 4 and 6 percent of teens last year shifted from shopping at specialty stores to shopping at mass merchants and discounters.

Part of this is being driven by the hangover from the recession — and continued high unemployment. That means teens don’t have money to spend on new clothes, and nor, in many cases, do their parents. Apparel spending, which had averaged 50 percent of teens’ discretionary purchases in 2008, fell to 40 percent last year.

According to The NPD Group, apparel spending among 13- to 19-year-olds dropped 9.4 percent to $34.7 billion in the 12 months ended April from $38.3 billion during the comparable prior-year period.

The need to clear out inventory in advance of b-t-s shipments at retailers including Gap Inc., American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. not only could put stores under higher price and margin pressures, but also affect consumer psychology going into the important b-t-s selling season, said Kurt Salmon & Associates partner and strategist Christina Bieniek.

The ability to read fashion trends has also become a problem according to Weeden & Co. specialty analyst Amy Noblin. There has been a clear move away from Americana and surf-and-skate fashion trends to fast-fashion shopping, made accessible by H&M. The problem is specialty chain retailers have yet to adapt to the idea that teens today aren’t simply wearing the usual style.

So, who will prosper?

Fast-fashion retailers such as Zara, H&M and Forever 21, as well as Aéropostale Inc. and Urban Outfitters Inc., will lead the pack because of their lean inventory models and ability to bring fresh, trend-right apparel to stores quickly, she said.

Ben-Shabat said the crux of the problem for many teen retailers is their business model.

“It’s not so much about the look of the merchandise,” she said, explaining that teens will always wear Americana and surf-and-skate clothing. “It has more to do with speed-to-market. If merchandise does not change frequently, the consumer won’t be as interested.

“All retailers are working on this…but they still have a long way to go,” she said.

Photo: Courtesy

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