Thrift Economy: Recession? Teenagers Get It, and Are Cutting Back

NYTimes reports: After a year of observing their parents pinch pennies and fret about the economy, the nation’s teenagers may be coming to grips with reality. Sales are down sharply in recent months at nearly every major retail chain catering to teenagers, and interviews with teenagers suggest that the reasons go beyond their own difficulty finding part-time jobs. w400.1.thrift-717222

“I think my sister and I, throughout this year we’ve kind of lost an interest in getting gifts and things like that,” said Morgan Porpora, 16, who in the past had a list of things she wanted for Christmas. “I guess we’ve noticed the economy and we just kind of even feel bad I guess asking for a lot.”

Last month, stores that specialize in clothing and accessories for teenagers were the worst-performing sector in all of retailing, posting a 7.8 percent year-over-year sales decline, according to Thomson Reuters. Sales at stores open at least a year, a measure of retail health known as same-store sales, tumbled by double digits in November at Abercrombie & Fitch, Hot Topic and American Apparel. Same-store sales also declined at Zumiez, Wet Seal and American Eagle Outfitters.

Teenagers’ growing mindfulness about money is influenced, of course, by the way their parents are cutting back, and by a record-high teenage unemployment rate. But the biggest factor, according to the teenagers themselves, is that they have come to understand the social moment. “As me and my brothers get older and we realize the implications of the recession,” said Sarah Berger, 16, “we just kind of value presents and gifts less.”

The teenage unemployment rate is at a record high, more than 26 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to an overall unemployment rate of 10 percent. One reason is that retailers hired fewer seasonal employees, which analysts at Standard & Poor’s Equity Research said had hurt chains that sell to teenagers.

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