Catering to girls' love of fashion with a nod to Mom
By CECILIE ROHWEDDER
Logan Morris, 14, with her mother, Renee Morris, right, at Frock & Frill in Wilton, Conn. Store co-owner Lauren Robak is at left. Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal
Logan Morris and her mother went shopping for a dress for the homecoming dance last fall. Lying on her bed, the 9th-grader went online and, using her cellphone camera, took pictures and texted them to her mom on a computer downstairs.
Renee Morris replied with comments and other suggestions, and eventually they zeroed in on five dresses. "I really like the way she lets me know what she likes or what she doesn't," said Logan, 14, who matched her party dress with black heeled Steve Madden booties.
The next day, Ms. Morris texted Logan one more time to make sure and then ordered all five. In their Wilton, Conn., home, Logan tried on the dresses and, with input from her mom and a friend, decided on a black-and-white tribal-print tank dress that set off her red hair.
The mother-daughter shopping trip is expanding into new territory. Moms and their girls follow the same retailers on social media, trade photos of clothes and create joint pin boards of looks they plan to shop for, whether online or in a traditional trip to the mall. Retailers are emailing targeted coupons to mothers and daughters, marketing to them on social-networking sites and launching platforms where family members can share images and opinions.
Using the Shop Your Way membership program at Sears Holdings Corp., shoppers build a personal catalog of merchandise accessible from a mobile device, and use a chat function to get style advice from family, friends and other members while shopping. "It is making it easier to share excitement about fashion with mom and friends," says Sheila Fields, Sears Apparel chief marketing officer.
Renee Morris and her daughter, Sienna, age 7, consider a purchase at Frock & Frill in Wilton, Conn.Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal
Sears may offer a frequent mother-daughter shopping duo a coupon for the Juniors department. Sears also posts product photos on sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, so young fashionistas can "like," repost or ask mom to buy.
On the day after Thanksgiving last year, some 14% of shoppers were out with a parent, a child or both, compared with 11% in 2012, according to America's Research Group, a research and consulting firm in Summerville, S.C. In an uncertain economy, many parents bring daughters along to shop "to make sure they're not making a buying mistake," says C. Britt Beemer, chairman.
Busy moms and daughters are bonding while running errands, turning shopping trips into a form of quality time. Retailers say even small children now have firm views on style, honing them through exposure to fashion and celebrity news. And with more young adults living with parents, there are more adult daughters shopping with mothers, too.
Mother-and-daughter shopping is expanding into new territory. As mothers exchange photos with their girls, retailers are taking advantage. Cecilie Rohwedder reports, and Renee and Logan Morris share their experience. Photo: Bryan Derballa for WSJ
When Ms. Morris shops with Logan and her other daughter, 7-year-old Sienna, they start at Frock & Frill, a Wilton boutique that opened in September with the idea of serving two age groups. Owners Lauren Robak and Melissa Thompson say mothers and daughters spend more time shopping when together than when alone. They stock brands for adults and tweens, plus collections like Lovemarks and BlankNYC's denim range that appeal to both.
Resort brand Lilly Pulitzer shows its prints in varied combinations for different generations. For teens and young adults, a tunic top might be paired with shorts, while for moms it might go with white pants and wedge heels. The brand's signature shift dresses are priced between $128 and $198, an affordable range for young and mature shoppers, says Janie Schoenborn, vice president of creative communications.
Kohl's Corp. is selling brands that cross over from kids to adults, such as Rock & Republic's denim line. And its stores have Wi-Fi to encourage shoppers to take and share photos.
Renee Morris and her daughters 7-year-old Sienna and 14-year-old Logan like the multi-age styles at Frock & Frill in Wilton, Conn. Bryan Derballa for The Wall Street Journal
The face of Kohl's spring campaign for the Candie's brand is Bella Thorne, a young actress with a strong social media presence to draw in teens and a scandal-free image to draw in parents. Another campaign focuses on the color pink and encourages mothers to talk with daughters about breast health. Kohl's plans to promote the effort on social media. "Social channels have evolved in a way that we can talk to mothers and daughters more than ever before," said Michelle Grass, the retailer's chief customer officer.
In a recent survey of 12- to 19-year-old girls, 74% said their parents were "very involved" or "involved" in shopping with them, according to the Futures Company, a consulting firm; 78% said they respected older family members' opinions. Mothers, meanwhile, are adopting youthful looks, retailers say. The result is women's and girls' styles are converging.
Even shopping buddies can disagree, though. On a recent morning, Jillian Lauricella, a Connecticut 16-year-old, came to breakfast wearing a tight black mini skirt, fishnet tights and black stack-heel booties. Her mother, Kyle, bought the pieces while they were shopping together. But seeing her daughter wear them all at once, Ms. Lauricella felt they weren't appropriate for school.
As they talked, Jillian revealed that she herself felt unsure about the outfit and ran upstairs to change. She came down in a new look Ms. Lauricella found fashionable and age-appropriate. She praised her daughter for her willingness to change. It helped that she shops with Jillian and her sisters, Ms. Lauricella says. "You've got to be part of what's in their closets in the first place."
Justice, a 942-store chain owned by Ascena Retail Group, Inc., focuses on hot fashion for 7- to 12-year-olds while offering mothers "a wink and a nod," says Scott Bracale, president of Tween Brands Agency Inc., which is responsible for Justice's marketing.
When tweens craved the low-rise pants they saw their big sisters and baby-sitters wearing, the retailer (then known as Limited Too) sold bottoms that were slightly less low cut. For spring, the chain tested cropped tops matched with high-waisted bottoms with both mothers and daughters, Justice made sure the tops don't show skin. "We want to be a fashion leader," Mr. Bracale said, "but behind the scenes, we want to be sure moms are comfortable."