Annoyed might not be the right word for it, but a front page article in today's WWD makes it clear that retailers don't know what to do with the rising generation of shoppers.
The shopping habits of this latest generation are cutting into profits: younger, tech-savvy consumers are less invested in brand names and spending more time finding coveted items for the lowest possible price with apps and shopping search engines.
Fashion's shift to styling reflects young shoppers' attitudes about shopping: "Having a lot of money isn’t a source of status for this generation. They get their status through their ability to curate. They get their status from attention, from people noticing their great taste. [They] come up with costumes to wear for their fans. It’s very display orientated… [Designers] can’t just sit there with iconic status and expect people to bow in front of them anymore. [Gen-Y doesn’t] want to pay homage to a great designer. This generation wants to be involved. It’s really, in effect, them being the designer.”
We spend a lot of time at TFS covering major designers, both on the homepage and in the forums. We ran over 150 articles during NYFW, mostly covering the runways, in addition to a staggering number of threads and posts reacting to the Spring 2012 collections in the TFS forums. And most of our visitors probably fit into the generation profiled by WWD: 18 to 29 year-olds, technologically adept. At first glance, TFS and all the other fashion sites on the internet are proof that designers haven't lost their cache, but when you take a look at our Forum Shopaholics column, the profiled buys are rarely retail-price designer wares: the uberstylish forum members turn to Zara, H&M, Topshop, discounted offerings on Gilt and other e-commerce sites, and vintage on eBay. It's not that younger shoppers don't admire designers, they just don't need to go into debt to look good. Even if the shift in behavior is cutting into profits today, it's a hard stance to criticize and could be a boon to retailers long term: having a more stable, financially secure generation can only improve the bad economy. If everyone goes bankrupt, who will be left to shop?
Image from Terry Richardson's "Proud to Shop" editorial