‘Grant will be paid in Robux’: How Abercrombie has updated its children’s line for a new generation

Children’s fashion is one of the more complicated areas of the fashion world. Children grow quickly and put a lot of strain on their clothes. Not to mention that children’s clothing brands have to market to two customers at the same time: the children who wear the clothes and the parents who buy them.

But after kidswear hit $40 billion in sales in the US last year, brands like Abercrombie & Fitch are increasingly focused on perfecting their approach to kidswear.

For many years, Abercrombie & Fitch’s Abercrombie Kids line for children aged 5 to 14 was fairly basic compared to the trendy and trend setting line for adults. But in 2019, Abercrombie Kids SVP and general manager Kelly Hall sat down with Carey Krug, SVP of marketing for Abercrombie & Fitch and Abercrombie Kids to refresh the kids line. And in the last two years, Hall has made several significant changes to the children’s collection sold on Abercrombie’s website and in stores.

Most notable was the decision to commit to making it as trendy as the company’s adult styles. When looser jeans first became a bigger trend for adult women, Hall said she made the decision to make the same move in the kids’ line.

“It became clear that we need to go beyond the basics and focus on trends,” she said.

Especially in the age of Instagram, style-conscious adults want their kids to be fashionably dressed too. And kids in the tween age group are attuned to trends themselves. In 2019, as the realignment began, Krug and Hall spoke to hundreds of kids in focus groups to find out what they would like to wear. According to Krug, the 9- and 10-year-olds she and Hall spoke to as they refined the brand vision, thanks to social media and observing their parents, older siblings and celebrities, knew what was in fashion.

Brand collaborators like influencer Jen Reed (1.2million Instagram followers), who designed a collection with the brand in late 2020, are now being asked to collaborate on styles for the adult and children’s lines. Sometimes that means making exact copies of adult styles to allow for mini-me moments. In other cases, it is about making children’s clothing that follows the same trend.

But Hall said not every trend that works for adults translates easily to children. Cropped band tees, for example, had a boom for Abercrombie in mid-2021, but the team wasn’t comfortable selling crop tops to 9-year-olds. Instead, the same band logos, prints, and colorways were carried over to standard t-shirts for the kids’ line.

Krug said marketing children’s clothing is a complicated business. Instagram remains the dominant channel to reach parents, but children are more fragmented in terms of where they spend their time. Many use Instagram, but other channels such as gaming platforms are also becoming increasingly important. Krug said Abercrombie plans to launch a Roblox partnership soon, aimed at hitting the tween market, but details are still under wraps.

“With my kids, pocket money is paid in Robux,” Krug said, referring to the proprietary currency Roblox uses for in-game purchases. “A lot of kids spend their time there. We also worked with Nickelodeon on some custom content for their YouTube channel.” Nickelodeon has nearly 10 million YouTube subscribers and Roblox has more than 40 million daily active users, 30% of which are between the ages of 9 and 12.

Direct marketing to children is necessary because, for the most part, the parents who shop for them are not Abercrombie customers themselves. Krug said that only about 20% of adults who buy Abercrombie Kids also buy adult products. Abercrombie relies on targeted Instagram ads for the brand in front of parents.

One area of ​​children’s fashion that has evolved a lot in recent years is how brands deal with licensed clothing, i.e. clothing with popular IPs. In the children’s world, these include Marvel superheroes and “Star Wars” characters.

Licensed clothing for children is often anything but groundbreaking from a design point of view. Usually, a simple t-shirt with a picture of Spider-Man on it is enough to pique the interest of an average 8-year-old, for example. For parents who want their children to look stylish, a simple and uninspired use of a licensed image is unattractive. But kids, especially boys, want these characters, Krug said.

The solution for Abercrombie Kids is to secure licenses kids love but with a more subtle, fashionable design. For example, it currently sells a hoodie featuring the Star Wars character Boba Fett, who recently appeared on the Disney+ show The Book of Boba Fett. But instead of showing a simple still image of the character, Abercrombie used a vintage ’70s illustration of the character, paired with the Abercrombie branding in a similar worn font.

“We talk a lot about ‘parent bait’ and ‘kid bait’ in terms of what each audience gets excited about,” Hall said. “Licensing is kid bait. They love Spider-Man. When they see this, they want it. But we’re really trying to differentiate ourselves from the way other brands are using these licenses by making them a little more upscale.”

Abercrombie & Fitch, which also owns Hollister, has made a comeback of sorts over the last year. After a sales slump in the mid-2010s, the brand achieved global sales growth by the end of the decade. And sales in 2021 grew 10% year over year. This was due to a 17% increase in sales in its largest market, the United States, and a 12% increase in its business segment, which includes Abercrombie’s adult and children’s product lines. The company does not break down sales between the two lines in its disclosures.

The market for tween fashion is growing. New players like Sugar & Jade and Francesca’s Franki and returning giants like Justice, relaunched at Walmart last summer, have widened the field. For its part, Saks Fifth Avenue launched more than 60 brands in its children’s category in 2021, including Off-White, Armani and Moschino.

With a market this crowded and lots of money up for grabs, it’s more important than ever to stand out.

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