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Review: Retailers Aim Straight At Teens

Whalen, J. (1994, September 5). Retailers Aim Straight at Teens. Advertising Age, pp. 1, 8.


(Download Retailers Aim at Teens overview as a PDF)

This fall, many retailers are focusing more media dollars and brand messages on the teenage market. This is in response to recent studies showing a considerable rise in teen spending power. While parents are expected to spend $311 per child on clothing this year, attention is directed to teens and the money they are spending on themselves: $57 billion annually of their own money. (Source: Teenage Research Unlimited, Northbrook, IL.) Studies on teen buying power have led more marketers to advertise in teen journals such as Teen and Seventeen.

The size of the three-month, back-to-school market ranks just below that of the holiday season market, which represents 30% of annual retail sales. To attract teens, stores need to offer branded merchandise, particularly in denim and athletic shoes. A survey conducted by retail consultant Deloitte & Touche found that 97% of boys and 94% of girls said they prefer branded shoes, and 89% of boys and 91% of girls reported the prefer branded jeans. John Costello, senior executive VP-Marketing for Sears Merchandise Group, says that while most of Sears’ apparel business is half branded and half private label, almost all of the juniors merchandise is branded.

Discounters are aware of teens’ desires for brand names. Mid-level department stores (such as J.C. Penney & Co., Sears, Roebuck & Co., and Montgomery Ward & Co.) compete neck and neck with mass merchandisers. Target Stores launched a campaign to distinguish itself not only as a “smart place to shop but also a cool place to shop,” according to Tom Weyl, president-chief creative cfficer at Martin/Williams agency in Minneapolis. Penney’s has added preprinted circulars and boosted electronic media spending in order to appeal to brand-minded teens. A Market Facts survey showed that of those respondents with children at home, 30.7% do their shopping for fall apparel at midlevel department stores primarily, while 30.1% prefer mass merchandisers. The survey also found that parents are increasing their fall apparel budgets.

The back-to-school shopping season extends over a much longer period than it once did. Mr. Costello of Sears attributes this to the staggered start dates of schools, saying that many young people “like to wait until they’re back at school to see what everyone else is wearing.”

Questions for Reflections and Discussion

  1. What are your reasons for choosing a place to shop?
  2. Why do you think teens prefer brand names? What does this indicate?


  • The fact that teens tend to prefer brand name goods may be the result of a generally image-conscious society.
  • Teens are spending more of their own money these days, which often affords them more purchasing freedom. This freedom places them in a position of having to make adult choices regarding product value, quality, usefulness, and other key purchasing criteria.


Sheila Walsh
© 2018 CYS

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