So, I read a New York Times article yesterday about the overall decline in sales for retailers, with the exception of everyone's favorite Goliath, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart actually achieved a 5.1% increase in February which the company attributes to lower gas prices allowing people to travel to the store more and spend more income in discretionary categories; I can only imagine that since Target's sales fell by 4.1% that means that Wal-Mart really does have the better deals (not that I would know...I barely survived Target last weekend. I'm pretty sure that I would have a mental break if I went to a Wal-Mart. Have I mentioned that I'm not good with people?).
Anyway, while all of this is interesting, I became more interested in the information about clothing retailers. Not surprisingly, high end retailers are taking the biggest hit, but I was never in the Neiman Marcus league so no need for discussion there.
I am curious, however, about what it is that made people avoid Abercrombie & Fitch to the extent that their sales figures dropped by 30%, but yet stores like Buckle, Hot Topic and Aeropostale actually showed slight increases. They are all retailers geared toward the same demographic, so I would naturally assume that when one falls, they all fall. Clearly not the case...so, here's what I think: parents (and maybe their kids if they are spending their own money) have finally figured out that Abercrombie is soooo overpriced for the wrinkled and in some cases very teeny tiny t-shirts and shorts that you can purchase. Have you noticed that their ads showcase people wearing not a whole lot of clothes...what is it that they are actually advertising?! Last I checked, they didn't sell the cute set of twin boys on their billboard in the store--so we're back to the too small and wrinkled tees. Anyway, I digress. As I was talking to my husband about this (I listen to politics, he listens to my clothing company theories), I started going off about J.Crew. See, in my age range I think that qualifies as the Abercrombie & Fitch. While I like some of their styles (no itsy bitsy shorts for my butt to fall out of), they are consistently over-priced for the fit and quality of the pieces. I realize that I am not what most of you would consider a "bargain" shopper, but I do need to know that when I shell out some cash, my clothes are going to last me for a few years without falling apart, shrinking or changing shape in the laundry--especially in today's economy. It seems to me that teens (or more accurately parents of teens) are coming to the same conclusion about Abercrombie that I have about J.Crew.
So after all of that, I think the sales figures just show that for the money, people feel they get more bang for their buck at Aeropostale and Hot Topic, and that is probably one of the biggest incentives for a purchase in 2009. For the record, Banana Republic is my Aeropostale/Buckle/Hot Topic...which basically means I am old.