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by Meghan Cass

New York, NY – Once considered recession-proof, the teenage consumer market is finally feeling the economic pinch.

“Teens are certainly not insulated from what’s going on,” said Irma Zandl, founder of the Zandl Group, a New York-based consumer research firm that studies teen behavior. “We’ve been hearing from them how tough it is, and many have been seeing their parents lose their jobs.”

Amid a larger slowdown in consumer spending during recent months, teens are also finding considerably less cash in their pockets.

“Parents are contributing at least half [of what teens are spending],” said Jeffrey Klinefelter, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray. “All indications would suggest that budgets are tighter and that if they’re not getting cut back at this point, they are certainly expected to in the future.”

In addition to the parental money crunch, many teenagers also are being affected by the poor job market, as demand for part-time workers decreases and positions are filled by more-qualified adults.

Indeed, many retailers told Footwear News that both parents and kids are increasingly price sensitive. “Parents definitely try to get their children to purchase off the sale tables,” said Kelly Cuerva, manager at Bad Doll in Portland, Ore. Zandl said parents and teens are “on the same page” when it comes to budgeting. “We have not gotten any sense of teenagers being resentful or feeling put out and annoyed at their parents,” she said.

Even when they are spending their own money from part-time work or gifts, teens are on the hunt for bargains. “I have never seen them so patient waiting for prices to drop. It’s like they are playing a game with the retailer,” Zandl noted.

Most vendors agreed that teenagers are looking for more bang for their buck. “[The key to tapping that market] is having the right look at the right price,” said Ed Goins, VP of sales at Ugg, one of last year’s strongest-performing brands.

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