Teen Splurge in Back-To-School Luxury

Discussion
Aug 07, 2007

By Tom Ryan

Forget notebooks and pencils. Teens and tweens enamored with celebrities and fashion are looking for $200 designer handbags and $100-plus jeans this back-to-school season.

The increased luxury spend by teens arrives as websites, tabloids and TV shows detailing celebrities and fashion make kids more aware of luxury goods than ever before.

“They’re prime candidates for luxury,” Gerald Celente, publisher of Trends Journal told The Associated Press. “Their world is the entertainment world and that’s what they’re focused into.”

Jacqueline Nasser, ELLEgirl Fashion Market Editor, said teens take their cues from shows like “Laguna Beach,” “The O.C.,” “The Hills” and “My Super Sweet 16” that portray a high-class lifestyle.

“They have been surrounded by celebrities and TV programs where fashion is the central point,” she said. “They even have younger celebrities in the ads for designer labels–Scarlett Johansson for Louis Vuitton, Lindsay Lohan for Jill Stuart, etc.”

Bloomingdale’s fashion director Stephanie Solomon said teen shoppers at department stores nationwide this year are looking for $300 Chanel sunglasses, designer handbags by Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Chloe–which can cost between $900 and $1,250–and $200 to $300 Tory Burch shoes.

“It’s really about the accessories,” she said. “The fact that you can wear sunglasses every day and carry the same handbag every day justifies the expense.”

Also, the recent surge in lower priced lines by designers–Marc by Marc Jacobs, for example, or Proenza Schouler for Target–help teens afford designer fashion, but have also made them aware of even higher-priced lines.

“They’re a segue into the designer sectors,” said Ms. Solomon.

The increased spending comes as the luxury market prospers while mid-tier and discount retailers feel the brunt of rising gas prices and the depressed housing market.

Amy Klaris, a branding specialist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, said that where parents put their foot down depends on their income. While a Prada wardrobe might be too much, a parent might be more willing to spend on a key-item accessory.

“They want their kids to fit in,” she said. “They’re still buying t-shirts at Target, but still having that (luxury) handbag.”

Discussion Question: How sizeable is the luxury opportunity in teens and tweens? What do you think is driving this trend? Should retailers reaching this customer be aggressively pursuing this opportunity or should some caution be applied?

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9 Comments on "Teen Splurge in Back-To-School Luxury"


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Mike Blackburn
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

If you don’t get them while their young, you’ll have a harder time getting them later on.

John Long
Guest
John Long
14 years 9 months ago

This isn’t a “new” trend–teens have been buying upscale and luxury brands for at least 2 decades. It was teens who fueled the Calvin Klein jean phenomenon in the late 70s (who could forget the still teenage Broke Shields as its spokesmodel?). My guess is that today’s teens are the children of this original ‘Calvin” generation, so what’d we expect? Further, luxury brands should be hoping that this current generation of teens will not only continue in their parents’ footsteps, but also imbue the next generation with the luxury “bug.”

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
14 years 9 months ago

Retailers and manufacturers are not going to turn down cash or ignore the trends. They also aren’t concerned with being ethical. That’s not their job. Therefore, it is the parents responsibility to make sure that kids understand how to manage money. I don’t buy $200 jeans for myself and never would. I also wouldn’t buy them for my kids and they know it. They also understand the value of a dollar and how long it takes someone to make $200. I have 3 teenagers, we live in an affluent neighborhood and they would love to have “Seven” jeans. But they know if they want that excess, they are paying for it themselves. They also know it takes a week of serving at “Friendly’s” to earn that cash. I’m amazed at how many wealthy people are shocked that I make my kids get jobs. They may not be buying themselves “Coach” purses, but they all have savings in the bank and a solid foundation for the future. It’s not the retailers job…it’s the parents.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 9 months ago
Hello…! Anyone in there ever hear of “Hello Kitty”? There are a number of retailers out there (manufacturers as well) who know where the branding market starts. With kids! It starts with moms buying certain brands of baby clothes, strollers, baby food, etc. In America, kids are programmed from the womb to be discerning shoppers. Children of the affluent never wear Kmart or Wal-Mart and learn at an early age what the difference is, and what difference it makes. Folks, there are two or three worlds out there. We tend to see our own and are blind to those worlds beneath us. But every socioeconomic strata has its “must have” items. It’s not a matter of having something, it’s a matter of belonging to something. And for anyone who has plunked down $1,500 for a “college bound” laptop, please realize that it will not be used as an educational aid. The function of a laptop is to organize and store iTunes and pictures. Of every 100GB of storage, less than 5 GB will be devoted… Read more »
Doug Fleener
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

The apple definitely doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? Most of these teens aren’t acting any differently from their parents. The luxury market has been driving retail and it is only natural that it reaches the teen market as well. This trend will only continue to offer retailers even more opportunity.

It’s not up to the retailer to decide if this is an appropriate trend or not. If teens want luxury items in their lives then retailers ought to sell it to them. It’s up to the parents to decide for themselves what is appropriate for their children or not. It’s funny to compare this to when I grew up in the ’70s. It was actually the opposite. Our parents wanted us to wear nice things and instead we wanted ripped and worn clothes. So what did retailers do? They sold them to us. And it’s no different today…give the customer what they want.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 9 months ago

Who says the consumer isn’t supporting the growth engines of the U.S.?

Yes, this is a segment of consumers that has enormous buying power. The teens will keep the retail sales advancing in all product categories. And with fashion and school needs at the top of these young people’s lists, the retailers should have a meaningful ‘back-to-school’ sale and g.p.m. advance!

Hmmmmmmmm…MAD MARKETING…know thy target audience and its segments for results.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
As it’s several hours earlier over here, I’m going to jump in before David turns on his computer and says that the only reason why business exists is to make money by persuading consumers to part with their hard-earned cash. While I can’t really disagree with this, I am more on the side of those who frequently discuss the ethics of retailing on these pages (there’s an early morning surprise for you). I’ve just been reading about the study by Stanford University pediatrics researchers in the August issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showing that children aged 3-5 preferred food in a tasting if it came in a branded McDonald’s bag even though the samples were identical to those in unbranded bags. My point is that there is potentially a massive opportunity for marketing luxury goods to tweens and teens BUT that I don’t approve in the least for more reasons than I can cite in this restricted space. Basically, I think the celebrities, those who promote them and those who promote products… Read more »
Leon Nicholas
Guest
Leon Nicholas
14 years 9 months ago

What’s driving this is clear: rising real wages, which are driving gains in real disposable income. This trend in teen luxury is the fruit of nearly full employment.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

There are aspirational teenagers, just like aspirational adults. More teenage girls can afford $200 jeans than a new convertible. More adult women can afford $400 handbags than a swimming pool. And Americans (young and old, both) aren’t shy about flaunting their luxuries.

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