How Nike stole Abercrombie & Fitch's teen customers

NikeNike on FacebookNike is the top clothing retailer with teens, according to a recent survey.

Abercrombie & Fitch and Gap used to be go-to destinations for teens.

“In schools across America, Abercrombie is shorthand for popular,” Time Magazine wrote in 2000.

But over the past several years, Nike has usurped those former mainstays, according to teens surveyed by research firm Piper Jaffray in its semi-annual Taking Stock with Teens Survey.

In spring 2001, teens loved Gap. But by the fall, Abercrombie & Fitch was on top — and the brand remained a teen favourite until its surfer sister brand, Hollister, became the top teen brand. Action Sports Brands was a teen favourite from fall 2008 to fall 2010.

This timeline shows which brands have dominated over the past 15 years.

Nike has been the top teen brand since spring 2011.

In fact, it’s the top apparel retailer in the United States.

This is in part because activewear is a wildly popular trend — but also in part because Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch have lost their grasps on teen fashion.

Abercrombie & Fitch adShrimpton CoutureAbercrombie was once a teen mainstay.

Both Gap and Abercrombie have been working tirelessly to reposition themselves, but teens today are more discerning than they were several years ago.

“They want to see if the brand is authentic and is worthy of their time, money, and values,” Generation Z expert Nancy Nessel explained to Business Insider. “They will only wear clothing that aligns with their values, has a social cause, and represents who they really are.”

Abercrombie has even decided to try to target older customers — and if the brand has given up on teens, it can’t expect teens to flock to its stores.

According to Piper Jaffray’s most recent survey, Nike overtakes other brands by a longshot.

So what’s in Nike’s secret sauce?

Nike secures endorsements from top-tier athletes. The brand is also praised for its innovative technology.

And the products Abercrombie and Gap are famous for, especially blue jeans, are increasingly going out of style.

“As we saw ‘casualization’ continue even further, the customer basically told us that they had enough denim until something really unique and innovative came along,'” NPD analyst Marshal Cohen told Bloomberg. “We really saw the denim industry and denim retailers basically turn their nose up on the customer and say, ‘We don’t care what you really want, we’re going to tell you what you want.'”

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