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Retailers also have to do more to keep millennials coming back, said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. The clothing and the in-store “experience” have to be right, she added.
“There are just too many places for younger consumers to shop,” Liebmann said.
Macy’s has created entire divisions devoted to young shoppers: Its Mstylelab is dedicated to customers ages 13 to 22, and Impulse is aimed at 19- to 30-year-olds. It has created private (Macy’s-only) labels such as urban-inspired denim line G-Star Raw and the skateboarder-driven Comune to draw in millennials with varied interests. And it also has the likes of Taylor Swift, P. Diddy and Justin Bieber selling its merchandise.
“We’re a destination for prom and for the first interview suit,” said Martine Reardon, Macy’s chief marketing officer. “It’s the 14- to 30-year-old and every year between that’s important.”
Macy’s is also using promotional events, such as a recent book-signing with Bravo TV executive and talk show host Andy Cohen, along with other “retail-tainment,” to create excitement in the store.
Still, there are exceptions.
Elizabeth Barton, 25, isn’t looking for celebrities and glitz. The Chicago executive recruiter likes new clothes and prefers Nordstrom over H&M, where she was snapping pictures of herself trying on sunglasses in front of a mirror on a recent afternoon.
“I assume celebrity brands aren’t well made, and they aren’t catered to my taste anyway,” she said. “My style is quality over quantity. I’d rather have one nice pair of jeans and one nice purse than a bunch.”
Discerning millennials like Barton are what Nordstrom was gunning for when it overhauled its trendy women’s department. The goal was to lure younger customers in search of quality with a nod to their limited budgets. The move wasn’t so much a change in strategy as a realization that it wanted to be the retailer of choice. “We thought we had an opportunity to be more relevant to that truly trend-driven customer who wanted us to be more accessible in price, and that was a hurdle for us before in that department,” said Nordstrom spokesman Johnson.