NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show attendees got a crash course in younger consumers from a brand that has related to that age group for generations. Claire’s Chief Marketing Officer Kristin Patrick joined Leslie Ghize, executive vice president of brand consultancy Doneger | Tobe, for a conversation about what it takes to meet the wants and needs of today’s younger consumers.
The two agreed that Generation Z (ages 14-27) and Generation A (13 and younger) are the sweet spot for how things are changing. “Gen Zs are super-creative, super-interested in being conscientious, in activism — but beginning to exhibit some dualities,” Ghize said. The pandemic was a kind of stick in the spokes of their development, she said, and it helps explain coexisting attitudes: “They can be both ‘You don’t matter — give up,’ and ‘You matter — don’t give up.’”
As consumers, Gen Z embraces both sides of the spectrum. “They’re trend-addicted anti-capitalists,” she said. They’re very worried about the environment, “but also shoveling stuff into the landfill.”
Hear more about how Claire’s is redefining the brand for a new generation on NRF’s Retail Gets Real podcast.
Meanwhile, Gen A — so far, at least — is emerging as a kind of refinement of the basic characteristics of Gen Z. “We call them the ‘Zalphas,’” Patrick said. They’re like Gen Zs on steroids — creative people who care about the planet, care about things like gender fluidity.
“We have to be reactive to them,” she said. “They talk to us on a regular basis through our socials about things they like and things they don’t like. We also have an ecommerce platform, so we’re constantly getting information on what’s working and what’s not.”
Referring to an earlier point in her career when she was at Gap, Patrick said, “The big focus at the time was on Millennials, and the slogan was really ‘Fit in to stand out.’ This generation is the exact opposite of that. … They want to forge their own path.”
Part of that process is a reassessment — or refinement — of their everyday relationship with technology. “Gen Zs are digital natives — you have to plug into their daily presence, social media, the metaverse — but they also really love analog,” Ghize said. “They also understand some of the downsides of digital and how it left them unconnected. Gen A is aware of that and is course-correcting on it.”
This one trend is something every business needs to think about, Patrick noted. “We’re at a precipitous moment in time where the world has changed dramatically over the past two years — I think of it as the TikTokification of the world … and we have to be there.”
For Claire’s, being there includes its owned and operated stores; recent placements of product in Macy’s, Walmart and Galeries Lafayette; and a direct-to-consumer business. And the company entered the metaverse last fall with ShimmerVille, which had seen more than 3 million visitors as of January, she said.
“It’s about being aware of everything but being loyal to your own brand and what it is offering the customers,” Ghize said. “That takes courage and conviction and a lot of confidence. The more that retailers and brands can do that, the stronger the business will be.”