Sofia Harrison, 15, holds up clothes for her friends to see while shopping at Roosevelt Field shopping mall in Garden City, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Apparently, you shop like your parents
August 31, 2015
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Giulia Pugliese is a typical teenager. She likes to look good. And she is particular about what she wears.
The Associated Press followed the 15-year-old from Long Island on a back-to-school shopping trip with friends. She left a Nike store empty-handed. That was even though Nike is one of her favorites. What was the reason?
"I buy on sale. Because it is stupid to buy a pair of shorts for $60," said Pugliese. She looks for the "Swoosh" logo in discount stores like Marshalls.
Teens are shopping like their parents during the back-to-school season. That is putting a lot of stress on retailers. They must change the way they market to them. Gone are the spending sprees that start weeks before school bells ring. More teens are careful about spending money. It is a habit picked up from their recession-scarred parents.
Today's kids recycle more clothes from the prior school year. Kids mix and match the old with the new. They get different looks. They also shop year-round for things they need. It means they are spending less money this time of year.
They are less likely to get anything that is not on sale when they do buy. And the number of kids who will reuse last year's items rose to 39 percent. That is up from 26 percent between 2011 and 2015. So says a Deloitte LLP poll of 1,000 parents.
When teens shop they are spending less. Families with school-age kids will most likely spend an average of $630.36 this year. That is according to a survey of 6,500 by the National Retail Federation. It is down 6 percent from last year. The results have shown drops for four out of the past seven years.
Back-to-school spending this year should hit $42.5 billion overall. That is up 2.1 percent from last year. It is according to The Retail Economist. That is a research firm. The numbers are much lower than the 5 to 6 percent average gains often seen in a healthy economy.
Teens' behavior is similar to how their parents learned to shop since 2008. That was when retailers pushed discounts. The idea was to get people to buy during the downturn. It helped lure shoppers. But it also got them to love deals. The shift made it hard for stores to make money. That is because the discounts cut into the amount of money they made.
Such behavior has cut into sales from July through September. It is the second biggest shopping period of the year. The biggest is during the winter holidays. Sales between July and September were 24.9 percent of total sales annually last year. That is down from 25.8 percent in 2003. That is according to The Retail Economist.
"Consumers are sending a message to retailers. That says 'the back-to-school shopping season just is not that important anymore,'" says Deloitte's Alison Paul.
The shift is changing how stores market to teens. Normally stores' promotions would end around Labor Day. Now they are making them go through September. They are also pulling together complete outfits from different brands in stores. It makes it easier for teens to buy looks. And they are using social media campaigns to be more easily seen by teens.
The AP followed Pugliese to observe teens' new behavior. She went shopping with her cousin, Arianna Schaden, 14. She went with two friends. They are Isabella Cimato, 17, and Sofia Harrison, 15. They went to Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, N.Y. Here are some ways teens are shopping differently. And how retailers are adjusting:
Teens are no't impatient about shopping.
The four teens plan to wait to buy things they do not need immediately. That is even though they started shopping weeks early. Things that will wait include jeans. The teens will not need them until well after school starts. That is when the weather cools. They are actually planning to spend about half of their back-to-school budget of about $400 after school begins.
Cimato did not buy anything at all that day. Harrison bought just a few shirts. She said: "To be honest, it is not that big of a deal because I shop year round."
They also want big discounts. Schaden found a $58 romper she liked during their shopping trip. She decided to leave the mall without it.
"I think I buy on sale because my mom never buys something unless it is on sale," she said.
Teens are not walking around at the mall for kicks during back-to-school. They are researching the looks they want online. And they follow popular hashtags on social media. That is so they can piece together looks before they get there. Google says its image searches for "school outfit" have grown a lot during the past three years. Those searches soared 76 percent in July.
Cimato researched denim tops and items with fringe on Instagram. She said: "I pretty much know what I am looking for."
That presents challenges for retailers. They are afraid teens will bypass their stores because they are focused on items they already want to buy. Retailers are trying to get teens' attention before they are in stores.
Macy's is one example. It 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. It means, "from where I stand."
Teens no longer want to look exactly like their friends. They are inspired by what they see on Instagram and the like. They want to personalize their looks.
"I am not a big fan of logos," Harrison said. "That is distracting to my style."
That behavior makes it hard for retailers to dictate specific looks. Retailers have to do more marketing to attract teens.
Penney's back-to-school ad campaign is called "Bend the Trend." It tries to show how easy it is to put together trends for a personalized style. Hollister is like many teen retailers. It has scaled back its logoed clothing.
"Today, the customer is the center of everything we do," said Hollister president Fran Horowitz.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Which habits have teens picked up from their parents?
Write your answers in the comments section below