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September 28, 2021

In a recession, parents rule back-to-school shopping

Back-to-school shopping has followed the same trend for generations.

Parents, especially in times of economic prosperity, give their kids money and they go out and spend it. It’s a simple process on the surface, but has also led to yearbook photos that look like this, this and this.

Regardless, that was then. Now? Well, as you’ve probably noticed, the same rules don’t exactly apply anymore.

If one thing has suffered in unison with the still-struggling economy, it appears now to be the fashion freedoms of an age of teenagers growing up in recession.

According to the Wall Street Journal, parents no longer dole out those blank cheque back-to-school budgets to kids looking to raid the nearest Abercrombie or Bench outlet.

Instead, mom and dad are now subjecting the green-light of all purchases to the cruellest, lamest of fashion judges: them!

“Stores that attract school-age shoppers have always had to balance the duelling interests of the teen who wears their merchandise and parents who foot the bill,” the WSJ writes.

“Historically, retailers have gone after the former, relying on teens to persuade their parents to make the purchase. But as the economy stifles customer spending and crimps kids’ budgets, retailers are re-emphasizing their mom-appeal.”

Realizing their fate with parents, popular teen stores like Aeropostale and Old Navy are actually designing new stores to appease the ones paying that halter top/graphic tee tab.

The WSJ reports many Aeropostales, for instance, are installing wider aisles to accommodate parents with strollers and more seats to keep frustrated dads “in the store longer.”

Old Navy, too, has moved many “uniform-appropriate” back-to-school displays to prime store placement, running savings promos and placing a general “emphasis on making it easier for moms to shop.”

Stores like Hollister and the aforementioned Abercrombie & Fitch, well, aren’t changing much.

They’re sticking with the booming-music/super-sexy-snooty-staff/eye-watering-cologne-spray atmosphere that’s been so profitable in the past.

But, perhaps a shift in culture – if temporary – may be best suited. Coming off one of the worst summers for employment on record, kids sure can’t afford a hundred bucks for a pair of jeans, and parents don’t seem to want anything to do with the aggressive club-like ambience inside such stores.

“Hollister is very aggravating, very loud. You can’t hear yourself think,” a mother of three teens tells the WSJ, adding she’ll often wait outside those stores and will veto a purchase if “it’s not worth the money.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...