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When it comes to clothing for teenagers, the dilemma for marketers has always been whom to target: The person who (theoretically) will be choosing and using the product (i.e., young shoppers), or the one who is more likely to pay for it (i.e., their parents)? Historically, marketers have targeted the kids, with the philosophy that they will convince their parents, but this strategy appears pretty ineffective in the economy of 2009.

Teens today suffer from lessened purchasing power, and parents are harder to convince to buy the latest “must have.” So retailers need to concentrate specifically on the person with the checkbook—a person who also might have smaller children in strollers and prefers to sit down to wait for their teenaged shopper to try on items.

With the belief that small comforts like wider aisles and seats outside fitting rooms encourage longer store visits, Aeropostale is working to “TTM”: Target the Mom. Buckle, Inc., has adjusted its store and personal shopping hours to accommodate parents’ schedules, and Old Navy is stressing value as much as style. Some basic changes, including brighter lighting, lower music, additional and easily accessible cash registers, and family-friendly images in stores also are popping up throughout the marketplace.

But this strategy may backfire in the long-term, when teenagers reject these changes as evidence that the retailer just doesn’t get them. If so, some retailers will benefit. Hollister continues to showcase its products in stores that throb with loud music, dark lighting, and popular scents that carry outside the stores. The teenager remains in charge at Hollister and its sister company, Abercrombie & Fitch.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it short-sighted of retailers to change their focus and attempt to please parents? 
  2. Is it a mistake for A&F and Hollister to ignore the changing economic picture?

Elizabeth Holmes, “Teens Stores Cater to the Ones with Money,” The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2009.