The Teen Panel begins to arrive…

A great deal has been written about Millennials and latterly Gen Z with regard to the way they interact with their social media and devices and how they shop. But due to their age little regard is paid to the consumers of tomorrow until they reach 18 and suddenly have the capacity to pay with credit cards and earn proper salaries.

To counteract this and to shine a light on the habits of the newest school year to turn 13 and therefore be eligible to use a raft of social platforms (and yes, we know under 13’s are on Insta already but we had to draw the line somewhere) Retail Insider recently convened a mini-panel of young teenage girls together.

We wanted to see if and how their potential shopping habits could impact the high street, deliveries, sustainability in retail, technology in shops, and the whole way they will eventually locate and get the products they need.

Our panel had plenty to say on the subject of shops but the good news for retailers on the high street is that reports of youngsters no longer wanting to walk around their local main shopping street or centre might be premature.

Our panel all felt that the supposedly nostalgic pastime of walking up and down the high street with your friends on a Saturday afternoon was very much alive and kicking. “I go window shopping, that’s definitely not old fashioned,” one noted, although there was universal disdain at the idea of queuing outside shops on big sale days like Boxing Day.

At this age our respondents were not in the habit of going outside their local area with their friends so visiting large shopping centres further afield was still an activity that happened with parents. On these family occasions most of our panel preferred going earlier in the day before the malls were too busy but they were no less keen to do it with their parents than their friends.

Once in the shops however, the general consensus was that the space should not be crowded out with every type and every colour in the product range. “I prefer a minimalist space,” said one participant. “Just have one sample of every size dress not 10.” With most agreeing that the clothing departments of some retailers can resemble jumble sale counters at the end of a busy weekend day.

None of the panellists were interested in personal styling or advice from store staff and most preferred them to have a hands-off approach. “If I need help then I will ask them. I don’t want them next to me all the time,” noted one.

However, everyone was agreed that shops remain important. “If I’m buying clothes for me then I will probably go into a shop that I like, try a few different styles on and then go home and buy it online where I can choose from the whole selection,” was the opinion of our oldest teen. Another commented that she gets birthday presents and gifts mainly online “because you can’t really get those wrong and have to return them”.

Generally different product categories elicited different responses on the respective roles of online and bricks and mortar units. Searching for a party dress for most of our panel would mean browsing online first and then heading off to the shops to try on when a selection had been narrowed down, whereas trying to buy skinny jeans is more likely to entail trying on a couple of pairs first to ascertain correct fitting size before eventually buying online. One of our panel who often wears Nike or Adidas hoodies buys them all online and doesn’t need to go into shops at all.

In terms of searching online everyone was comfortable with using Google as a general search engine, which would then throw up images of different brand products that could be sifted through for the right product. Only one girl said she was in the habit of using specialist shops to find what she needed while another said that she often searched directly by brand.

And the damning verdict on the shopping habits of boys? “They don’t buy clothes,” said one girl. And that was that.

Glynn Davis, Retail Insider