Teen Retailers No Longer Cool

It’s been a rough couple of years for the “3 A’s” (Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Aeropostale). The retailers have fallen out of favor with their core demographic — teens — resulting in declining sales and profits and, in certain cases, hits to their brand images. Teens are shifting their purchases to trendier, lower price fashion brands such as Forever 21 and H&M.

Gone are the days when it was cool to wear an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt emblazoned with the company’s logo. Today’s teens are more interested in differentiating themselves by creating their own look, often inspired by what they see on social media sites. To better compete in this environment, the 3 A’s need to speed their development cycles for new merchandise to get the hottest styles on store shelves as quickly as possible.

“These young consumers are shopping by seeing what’s on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — they’re sharing on a constant basis, it’s always around them,” said Marcie Merriman, a consumer engagement consultant at Ernst & Young, in this Washington Post article. “So if what’s in the stores isn’t changing as fast as what’s happening around them, you’re going to lose them.”

In addition to reworking product supply chains, the 3 A’s are making strategic changes. Aeropostale recently announced the return of its former CEO Julian Geiger, who was at the helm of the company when it experienced its greatest success. However, not everyone is convinced the move will work as the struggling retailer fights to remain relevant.

American Eagle has hired a new chief merchandising and design officer whose job will be to help invigorate the stagnant brand. The retailer has launched a social media campaign to reintroduce its brand to teens and tout the fact that it’s begun using real teens, not models, to showcase its clothes.

Abercrombie & Fitch, which of the three brands might have the most work to do when it comes to rebuilding its image, has announced plans to scale back its “nightclub vibe” in response to feedback from its customers.

The question remains, however, are these efforts too little too late? I’d love to get your thoughts on where you think the teen retail market is headed. Maybe you have experience dealing with these brands from your kids? Let us know by posting a comment below.

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