More Than Just T-Shirts

I saw it coming years ago – when my children didn’t want to go to the mall for their new school clothes. Instead, they’d make me drive from one specialty store to another (usually sporting goods retailers) looking for unique logowear. A plain T-shirt from the Gap wouldn’t do. It had to have a cutting-edge graphic. And during vacations they’d supplement their T-shirt wardrobe with purchases from their favorite restaurants: Hard Rock Café and Planet Hollywood, and exotic vacation destinations.

Soft Goods Over Hard Goods
I have watched as the sporting goods industry has shifted from a hard goods focus to the more profitable soft goods focus. Walk into these stores today and you’ll likely find wall-to-wall clothing, with the sports equipment pushed into a small area along the back wall. I’ve watched the trend in skater wear progress to the latest trend in surf wear. Companies such as Billabong and Rip Curl make more money in T-shirts than they do in traditional surf equipment. Many of you Facilitators will remember Pacific Sunwear from our mall walk – it sells only surf and beachwear and doesn’t even bother with surfboards and other hard goods.

Is It Our Time?
For me, the ultimate eye-opener came a few months ago. I was passing by a watch shop near my home, and there in the window was a sign that read "We have Gibson watches." Wow! I had been noticing that some logowear from our industry has been showing up in other trendy shops, but this gave me a signal that our industry names may have entered the "teen trend." (After all, those guys on MTV are playing our instruments.)

Think of what this means! Teens spend more than $3,000 per year and make the majority of their apparel decisions. Their buying power is tremendous and will only grow bigger as their numbers swell to 32 million by the year 2010.

Know Your Market
When dealing in logowear, it is important to remember that this is your market, and that the majority of this business is in T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats. Teens wear them everyday. One store’s 19-year-old patron proudly stated that he had purchased 37 shirts from that shop alone. Reports like this indicate that it would be wise to consult with your younger 12 to 22 employees when making wearable stocking decisions. They’ll have a much better idea of what the young teens want.

Make It A Department
If you decide to pursue the trend in teen fashion, treat this fledgling product grouping with respect. Make it a separate department in your store. Spend some time at the mall studying how successful retailers display clothing. Make sure your new apparel department shines with the same high display quality teens see in other successful stores.

If indeed our industry names have entered the teen trend, don’t miss the opportunity. As in other industries, this will have a great impact on your business, and most importantly, on your profits.

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