Will comics, movies and music take tween retailer Justice to new heights?

Photo: Justice
Oct 12, 2018

Of its many strategic moves, turning itself into a film and media production studio is one of Amazon’s biggest successes. Now, a niche brick-and-mortar apparel chain seems to be taking a similar tack as it gets in on the entertainment game.

Tween girl’s apparel retailer Justice is launching an entertainment division called Justice Studios, according to a press release. The new entertainment arm of the company plans to create graphic novels, video series, music, documentaries and more — content all in line with the brand’s stated values of girl empowerment. The retailer is collaborating with production company Elevate Pictures to develop the content. Upcoming projects include a graphic novel series called Ultra Squad and a feature-length documentary about dancers in the Nutcracker (repurposed from the web series, Finding Clara). 

Justice is owned by Tween Brands (formerly Limited Too), which is a subsidiary of Ascena Retail Group. The chain operates around 800 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, according to its website.

While creating entertainment media may be its most drastic move this year, the chain has also taken other steps to drive home its identity as an empowering force for girls between the ages of six and 12. In September, for instance, the retailer celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of its Club Justice loyalty program. In conjunction with six weeks of special events and deals pegged to Club Justice’s birthday, the chain announced the launch of its “Come Together” campaign, which promotes goal setting, kindness and inclusiveness among members of its target demographic. 

Justice is not the only brick-and-mortar retail brand to try its hand at creating branded entertainment properties recently.

In 2016, Starbucks launched an animated series called 1st & Main on YouTube. The web cartoon is set in a Starbucks coffee shop staffed and visited by anthropomorphic animals representing Millennial tropes. At present there are eight webisodes on the Starbucks YouTube page with a few hundred-thousand views per video. The most recent episode was added in February of 2017. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can a niche brick-and-mortar retailer like Justice succeed with its own entertainment enterprise? How might Justice weave its entertainment products into its brick-and-mortar stores to generate customer interest?

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"Storytelling and entertainment are where it’s at in retail, and the tween market is no exception."

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6 Comments on "Will comics, movies and music take tween retailer Justice to new heights?"

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Mark Ryski

Creating quality entertainment content is difficult to do. Retailers who attempt this must know that the probability of failure is high. However, if the retailer can create entertainment products that resonate with their market, the result is brand leverage and differentiation that can help attract new customers and keep existing customers engaged. I applaud the effort.

Art Suriano

The idea is excellent, and no doubt Justice has a tween audience. The key here will be how they integrate their entertainment division with their stores. That can make or break this program. Plenty of in-store promotion, discounts and two-for-one offers along with other buying opportunities are essential as well as direct merchandise tie-ins connected to the media content Justice will be developing and selling. If Justice can motivate the tweens to come into to their stores to take advantage of buying opportunities after downloading the entertainment product, and equally when the Justice customers are in-store they are provided buying opportunities for when they visit the Justice entertainment website, they’ll have a win-win.

Nikki Baird

As the parent of a girl who theoretically just left Justice behind (she’s 14), I can tell you that Justice lost her well before 12. I think the idea of entertainment is interesting, I think it’s on point for retailers/brands, which need to be more content-driven if they are going to embrace or enable a lifestyle. And all this will help Justice. But the company is completely missing the “nerd” girl, and that segment is getting larger and larger with all of the investment in girls who code and girls in STEM.

Ultra Squad sounds like something my daughter might’ve been interested in at that age, but there’s no products in the store that support that affinity – it’s all cheerleaders and soccer. So – the idea is good. But it’s the execution that counts.

Lee Peterson

I like the idea. But this could take a while to succeed. I mean, you’ve got to market the idea, right? Extensively. That leaves so many questions around execution and funding. Amazon had/has endless capital back up and can afford many failures. Can Ascena?

Brandon Rael

Storytelling and entertainment are where it’s at in retail, and the tween market is no exception.

There is such a tight window of opportunity for specialty retailers such as Justice, to weave in their own entertainment enterprise. This is a risky proposition for the tween brand, as they will be competing against Disney, Marvel, and other entertainment and merchandising-focused brands. With that said, if Justice team could draw up an interesting enough of a story, then they might just draw some traffic back to their stores.

The way for this strategy to really resonate is to weave together a merchandising and product plan that will enable tweens to leave the store with some products following their experiences.

Jeff Sward

I think this is a smart move by Justice. While I agree with the caveats and risks that have been mentioned, I think this is a great opportunity to make the in-store shopping experience a lot more fun for the kids. It presents a great way for kids to Explore + Experiment = Experience. If Justice can turn this into a “learning” center for kids, all the better. And I don’t mean classroom, I mean a place for new ideas … a fun way to introduce kids to “new.” This sounds like a platform that could turn Justice into a whole different kind of mall retailer.

"Storytelling and entertainment are where it’s at in retail, and the tween market is no exception."

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