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Retailers Are Targeting Gen Z All Wrong

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Near everything in the world has been shaken up in recent years—including how younger generations approach families, how children approach life and how retailers have to deal as a result.

Speaking at an Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics talk on childrenswear Tuesday, David Shah, CEO and publisher of View Publications addressed the dwindling number of children being born in the world, pointing to millennials as contributing to the cause.

“Millennials are putting life decisions off,” Shah said. Many aren’t in positions to buy homes and some are still living with—and off—mom and dad.

But figuring out ever-puzzling millennials and their not-previously-conventional approaches is on the backburner for the moment. Gen Z is the new important generation, according to Shah.

Post-millennials as some are calling the generation born between (roughly) the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, entered the world with an iPad in their hands and much of their lives, from tots to teens, has been well documented on social media.

This group of youth also wants to make its own decisions, be bolder, braver, take whatever path they deem creative/novel/uniquely fit to them.

“Today children are part of a democracy,” Shah said. “They all do what they want and they share the responsibility [with their parents].

So, how do childrenswear retailers target a generation that doesn’t even always take heed of what their own parents say?

First off, stop making children’s clothes.

Gen Z’ers want to be treated like small adults, and wear clothing that would be fit for such, Shah said. They want things that are sophisticated and the want to find them in stores that resemble adult shops (hold the bright pinks and blues and flood of kiddie characters).

This do-it-yourself generation are increasingly global thanks to their Internet interconnectedness, and many care much less about race, sex and religion than those born before them.

They are also thrifty, according to Shah. Whether their own money or the sizeable buying power they command, many Gen Z’ers care about how they spend their money and if they are going to spend it, they want to spend it to do something good or on something from a company that’s doing something good.

If retailers get it right, the opportunity in this market is “massive” as Shah put it.

Although the children’s market only accounts for 12 percent of the total apparel market, it grew 6 percent last year, outpacing men’s and womenswear, which only grew 4 percent. In Asia Pacific, specifically, the childrenswear market was worth 44.1 billion euro and is projected to reach 65.1 billion euro by 2020.

Part of the reason for this only increasing opportunity has a lot to do with celebrities.

Celebrity moms, like Kim Kardashian, have turned their tykes into Instagram sensations early on and photos they put up often said parents straight to stores or sites to get whatever article of clothing or footwear the child was wearing—and those items often sell completely out very quickly.

Children, like Zooey Miyoshi (34.7k), Tyler Huan (37.1k followers) and Farouk James (143k followers), who aren’t even celebrity offspring are springing their own mass followings.

What’s perhaps most important when trying to market this generation, however, is that retailers shouldn’t be marketing to them at all.

“If they want to buy your clothes, they will come to you,” Shah said. “Don’t go and market to them. You have to be witty and clever and savvy.”

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