We went shopping at Vans and saw why it's suddenly wildly popular with teens

Business Insider/Jessica TylerThere were a ton of people shopping for shoes at Vans.

  • Vans’ sales are through the roof.
  • Vans has been making California skate culture a global phenomenon since the brand’s inception in the 1960s, and it’s currently hugely popular among teens.
  • Part of why the brand is so successful today is because of the popularity of athleisure and a resurgence in retro styles.
  • We visited a Vans store in New York City to better understand why the brand is so successful right now.

Vans is bringing California skate culture around the world.

The brand is thriving after more than 50 years in business. Vans’ sales rose a whopping 35% last quarter, parent company VF Corp announced on July 20.

As teens shift from favouring athletic styles to street styles, Vans is apparently one of the first brands they pick up, according to Piper Jaffray. Part of why the brand has found success as of late is that it is able to capitalise on two major trends happening right now: athleisure and a preference for vintage and retro styles.

“People are wearing athletic apparel now for all kinds of occasions – work, play, and school – without any intention of using them for athletic purposes,” Matt Powell, a sports industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group, said to CNN Money. “There’s a lengthy heritage around California lifestyle here. Most people who buy Vans don’t have a clue about how to skateboard.”

Vans, rooted in 1960s skate culture, also appeals to younger shoppers who are embracing vintage styles. For example, clothes with visible logos are back in style – and that’s something Vans sells a lot of. Vans’ global president, Doug Palladini, told Business Insider’s Dennis Green in 2017 that he sees a “multi-generational” appeal in Vans that makes it unique, adding that both parents and teens can wear it.

We visited a Vans store in New York City to see for ourselves why the brand is so successful right now. Here’s what it was like:


We visited the Vans store in Union Square in Manhattan.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The layout was very straightforward — men’s clothes were on the left, women’s on the right, and shoes in the back. The store was pretty busy considering it was the middle of the day mid-week.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The brand’s ties to skate culture were evident all over the store. Vintage-looking photos of skateboarders were all over the walls, and the “Off the Wall” slogan, rooted in skateboarding, was seen all over the store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a wall of skateboards for sale from popular brands like Hockey, Krooked, and enjoi.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It also sold wheels, trucks, bearings, and other skate accessories, despite the likelihood that many of Vans’ customers don’t know how to skateboard.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: CNNMoney


Most of the styles at Vans were simple, like flannel shirts, logo tees, and hoodies. Everything had a very retro feel to it, and nothing was trying too hard to be trendy.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Men’s clothing wasn’t terribly different from women’s clothing. The styles were almost the same, just in different sizes. The muted colours and big logos added to the retro feel.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Shirts generally cost between $US20-$US30, and they were pretty high-quality. Hardly anything in the store was on sale.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a big wall of graphic tees with different variations of the Vans logo.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store also had a regional display with products selected specifically for New York.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Shoes took up almost half of the store. Vans has five main styles of shoes — Era, Old Skool, Slip-On, Authentic, and Sk8-Hi — all of which were available among other styles.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were a ton of different colours, patterns, and designs in each style, plus the option to customise the sneakers in any way. There were plenty of shoes for skaters and non-athletes alike.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Vans also does sneaker and apparel collaborations with brands like Marvel. In the past, Vans has collaborated with Star Wars, Supreme, and other hugely popular brands.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most shoes cost between $US50 and $US75, which is cheaper than rivals like Adidas and Nike.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

A ton of people were shopping for shoes. There were little kids, teens, and adults all browsing. The shoes were easily the most popular part of the store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Near the register were other accessories like backpacks, hats, and sunglasses, most of which had the Vans logo on it.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though many retailers are currently struggling, Vans is taking advantage of the athleisure trend and a resurgence in retro styles to become hugely popular among teens.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

“Household Name” is the new podcast about brands you know and the stories you don’t. Subscribe for free now and don’t miss an episode: like how TGI Fridays started as a wild singles bar, or how Donald Trump saved stuffed-crust pizza, or how Blockbuster survived in Alaska.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favourite app.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.