Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The shoppers of tomorrow are here today. How do you capture them?

This month’s “Shopping Centers Today” explores how teens and young adults – a growing and important customer segment – are changing the way malls and by extension, traditional commercial districts need to respond to keep them as shoppers. (“The Young and the Restless”, Sept. 2014, SCT)
American Apparel is a popular teen retailer

So what has caused this recent concern? A look at the teen-focused apparel category – including the many Mandy’s and Rainbow’s that dot the urban landscape – shows that these retailers have had a few soft years. In response, Forest City Enterprises, one of the nation’s leading owners, developers and managers of commercial property, went ahead and tackled this issue by conducting research into the shopping habits and preferences of the teen market. What they found offers both good news and bad for both malls and commercial districts alike.

The Good
  • Physical presence still matters. Unlike the rest of us, younger shoppers have time to kill. 71% of expenditures by those between 13 and 17 occur in brick-and-mortar stores. 
  • While they are shopping, they like to socialize. Proximity of food options, cafes, etc. can help make a place a destination. Westfield Malls in London have socialization spaces that encourage teens to linger, including couches, coffee table, etc. Free concerts are another way to create an experience. Westfield offers free concerns Thursday through Sunday to drive traffic to their malls. Forest City has offered concert tickets to shoppers. 
  • The ubiquity of smartphone and on-line shopping options allow teens to browse on-line, but the good news is they still like to buy in the store. This is called “pre-shopping”. 
The Challenges
  • Teens are shopping less frequently – before the recession, teens went on roughly 40 shopping trips per year. Today that number has dropped to 30 per year. 
  • The teen jobless rate is 22% - and as a result teens are frugal and price-sensitive. They respond well to sales and discounts, so it is important to offer promotions to motive this group to shop. Forest City malls incorporate the Facebook and Twitter Feeds of many of the national brands in their malls. 
What Can you Do?
Mall managers are increasingly looking to offer the following to attract the teen market...
  • Offer an experience. Make sure you offer activities – from live music to farmer’s markets that provide more than just shopping. 
  • Offer a comfortable “third place” – a comfortable place to socialize that is not home or school. To this end, the café is an important offering. Other options include landscaped outdoor areas with benches and tables. 
  • Offer discounts. Sidewalk sales events and in-store promotions (connected to school opening, for instance) can be a good way to get these price sensitive customers in the door. 
  • Engage shoppers with social media. According to ICSC, the top three sites for teens are Instagram (30%), Twitter (27%) and Facebook (23%). Connect with any stores in your district that have their own feeds. 
These are simple, yet effective ways to ensure your teens are having the kind of experiences that keep them coming back to your district.

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