I’m the mother of a teen and trust me when I say she enjoys shopping. Maybe she enjoys shopping just a little too much, but that’s another topic for another time. This summer, I had occasion to interview her and several of her teen friends, also avid shoppers. The girls are: Becca, 16; Lucy, 15; Sam, 16; and Cat, 16, all residents of Boulder County, Colorado. The feedback is revealing, but a little disappointing at the same time. The conclusion? Many merchants are missing out on the opportunity to create loyal customers by disregarding market competition and the power of the youth dollar. Another discovery is how cost-conscious these shoppers are; they look for deals more aggressively when they’re footing the bill and they have little tolerance for pushy store clerks. Retailers, are you listening?
While the power of teenage shopping is nothing new, there appears to be a drastic shift from the label-addicted shopping that occurred when I was growing up. Sure, they’ll look for the cool label, but when pitted against that or keeping more money in their pockets, today’s teens go for the latter strategy.
So, just in time for back to school, read on to see what some young shoppers have to say about the retail arena. I asked the teens a series of questions based on shopping attitudes, price-point factors and what they encounter while shopping.
Questions and Interesting Answers:
Q: How often do you shop?
A: At least once a week, sometimes more if I have gift cards or a special event coming up.
Q: When you’re shopping, what is the average amount you’re usually going to spend?
A: $50.00 usually, maybe a little more if I have a gift card or good coupon. If it’s back to school or shopping for a season, usually $150.00 or more.
Q: Do you spend more or less when you’re shopping with your parents? (this one drew obvious laughs)
A: It depends on if it’s my money or not, but if they’re buying, then my ” I need it” list gets a bit longer. I tend to forget price a lot more when my folks are paying for the shopping.
Q: What makes you decide to go into a particular store?
A: Window dressings, sale signs and mannequins wearing outfits that look cool.
Q: What makes you not go into a store?
A: If it looks too expensive or snooty, I won’t go in.
Q: When you go into a store like that, what happens?
A:The price tags have always been too high and it’s a big let down, so I usually leave right away.
Q: Then generally do you shop in chain or local stores?
A: Chains. The local stores all seem too expensive and the chains have lots of sales, plus their stuff is just more affordable.
Q: When you’re shopping, do you get help from clerks?
A: Yeah, but I’d rather just ask when I need help when I need it. I feel like when they make suggestions, they’re really just trying to sell me something. I also think that when they keep watching me, they’re judging my clothes or thinking I’m there to shoplift. I’d rather just shop and be left alone. (All were very vocal about clerks and even consider the “Welcome to XYZ Store” to be obnoxious.)
Q: When you see outfits already put together, are you more likely to buy them?
A: Only if they’re affordable. If they’re not, I’ll try to recreate the outfit at another store, but for a better price.
Q: So you’re influenced by the clothes/pairings in the windows?
A: Yes, but only for the ideas. If the clothes are too expensive, I just won’t buy them.
Q: What other things influence what you’ll buy?
A: The biggest thing is cost and if I have a gift card. The other things are what other people are wearing or when a friend tells me about a sale somewhere.
Q: Which is more important to you, price or label?
A: Price. If I can get the label item at a better price, I might do it. Otherwise, I’ll shop for a similar look for a cheaper price.
Q: What if a similar item ends up being about the same price?
A: Then I’ll probably buy the label brand.
Q: When you decide on items, are you assembling an outfit or coming up with variations for other things in your closet?
A: Kind of both. I like it when I can mix things and come up with a different outfit.
Q: So what are your favorite places to shop and why?
A: Forever 21, Target, Roxie, Billabong and consignment stores. All these places have pretty good variety, and great prices.
Q: What about places like Abercrombie or Hollister?
A: The clothes are cool, but they’re expensive and they are made for twigs! I don’t like shopping there because the clothes aren’t made for normal people.
Q: You mentioned consignment stores. What’s the appeal there?
A: A good store like Plato’s Closet will have pretty cool stuff, things that are in season right now. There’s a lot to pick from, plus they have everything and you can get a lot for your money. They also get new stuff every day. You just never know what you’ll find there.
Q: How do you find out about a store having good sale or promo?
A: Usually my friends will tell me or text me, but I find out on Facebook sometimes, too. Sometimes I get an email if I signed up to be reminded.
Q: What about online shopping?
A: I do shops more online now, but still like to see the stuff at the store. I might see it in the store, then shop online for a better price.
And here we adults like to think we’re the bargain hunters, all dialed in on the deals around town. It seems that a lot of sales and deals teens find are spread by word of mouth, and also with social media. While we consider youth to be more plugged in than ever before, they also seem to be a lot more savvy and discerning when it comes to shopping. They don’t feel compelled to shop at one place because it might be popular. Instead, they opt to look at pricing a little more carefully and don’t allow the retailers to call every shot. Teen shoppers seem way more creative and shrewd than their yesterday counterparts.
Merchants take note: if you’re not competing for the youth market, you may have already eliminated this group of potential customers way too soon. Hopefully you’ll get some ideas here on how to change that around.
Photo Credit: fontplaydotcom