Teen (ages 13 to 17) and tween (ages 7 to 12) clothing is the lowest purchase incidence category included in the personal luxuries survey. Only about one-fourth of households, 24 percent, purchased teen and tween clothing in the past year.
The niche teen and tween market is getting lots of attention in marketing circles as marketers come to realize that these young people exert a powerful influence on family purchasing across a whole range of product categories including clothing, electronics, travel, sports, food and drinks, and entertainment. While the government lumps statistics on teen and tween clothing purchases into the broad men's and women's clothing categories, the NPD Group, which tracks apparel purchases more closely, estimated the market for teen clothing to be $20.9 billion in 2002, while tweens spent about $10.1 billion on clothes.
Traditional department stores (63 percent), discount department stores (56 percent), and clothing specialty stores (55 percent) take the lead in stores where consumers shop for teen and tween clothing. Non-store retailers, including the Internet and mail order, are also particularly important outlets for teen clothing, with 21 percent of purchasers using this source in the past year.
Because teens have very definite and different style preferences than adults and they generally require a different fit in their clothes, many specialty retailers have emerged to target the unique needs of this market niche. The Gap's Old Navy brand of 840 stores does an outstanding job of hitting the sweet spot of the teen market, even while their advertising tries to draw in a more adult crowd thus jeopardizing their unique competitive strength with young people, who definitely don't want to wear the same brand as their parents. Hot Topic, with 400 mall-based stores, offers kids apparel and accessories with a contemporary culture edge and an emphasis on licensed goods. Limited Too, a chain of 400 stores for tweens is a Limited spinoff. Pacific Sunwear targets the surf and skateboarding set, while Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew, Gap, Urban Outfitters, and H&M all offer their own unique looks for the teen set.
But the biggest name in teen and tween apparel is Abercrombie & Fitch, a $1.6 billion company that operates 700 stores in total under their flagship Abercrombie & Fitch brand, and Hollister Company stores, which is a lower-priced chain focused on 14- to 18-year-olds. While the company's flagship brand officially targets college-aged kids, their appeal has been directed toward the underaged teen and tween market. As a multichannel marketer, Abercrombie & Fitch has traditionally pushed the decency envelope in their skin-revealing catalogs, but it never got them into serious trouble until the Christmas 2003 A&F Quarterly edition. The catalog featured male and female models in "pictures hotter than a backyard barbeque," according to the company. It was considered too racy for the company's real target market (i.e., kids and teens buying with mom and dad's credit card). With family values groups from one coast to the other calling for a company boycott, they took heart and recalled the December 2003 issue, thus creating an after-market feeding frenzy on eBay for the "forbidden" catalog.
There are any number of reasons the teen and tween market is appealing to retailers and apparel marketers. Their bodies are growing and changing, thus creating a dependable repeat business as kids outgrow their old clothes. Their tastes and styles are also changing at a split-second pace, which predisposes this market to be continually on the prowl for the next trend look. The teen market is expected to grow 37 percent faster than the total U.S. population through 2008, thus based upon sheer numbers alone they are an attractive niche market to target for the future.
In teen and tween apparel purchasing, women take the lead, with 29 percent of women, as compared with 18 percent of men, saying they made a purchase in the past year. The prime age for purchasing teen and tween apparel is between 35 and 54 years, the age of the parents of the teen generation. Middle-to-upper-income households, $35,000 and above, are more active buyers of teen apparel, as are households with children and three or more members living in the home.
Women buy more.
Buying peaks in ages 35 to 54.
Middle-to-upper-income households buy more.
Presence of children and three or more household members leads to greater incidence.