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March 31st, 2010Free-spending teens return to malls

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by Andrea Chang
LATimes.com

The most coveted shopper these days isn’t a Beverly Hills housewife toting a Chanel handbag. It’s more likely her daughter.

By most accounts, teenagers are ideal consumers: Typically unhampered by debt, bills and mortgages, they spend freely and impulsively. Unlike their time-strapped parents, they hit the malls frequently and stay longer. And peer pressure at school makes it easy to justify dropping all of last week’s allowance on the latest Lady Gaga album, Xbox 360 video game or premium jeans.

So retail industry watchers were alarmed when teen spending plunged during the recession. “Bank of Mom and Dad — on pretty much all income levels — basically shut down in the back end of ’08 and the beginning of ’09,” said Christine Chen, a retail analyst at Needham & Co.

But now teen shoppers are making a comeback. For two months in a row, teen retailers have soared past sales expectations. Notably, Abercrombie & Fitch Co., known for its sexy advertising and casual-but-pricey fashions, snapped its 20-month streak of negative sales with an 8% increase in January.

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