"I've definitely slowed down on the clothes and sneaker shopping," Etienne said. Instead, a chunk of his cash now goes toward electronics. He was at the Apple store to replace his new iPhone6S, which he recently cracked by dropping it.
The scene that day helps explain why once dominant teen retailers - such as Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, and Abercrombie & Fitch - are closing stores.
A 2015 Retail Real Estate Report by consultant DTZ stressed that the trio was getting hit hard by online shopping. The report projects Aéropostale closing 175 stores through 2017; American Eagle, 150; and Abercrombie, 170.
"Teen retailers are in a high-risk, high-reward business - a trendy fashion appeal with a fickle customer base," said New York retail consultant Howard Davidowitz. "The decline is a long-term trend."
Industry experts cited four reasons:
- Competition. "Fast-fashion" retailers (those with quick turnaround that buy in bulk and sell cheaply) now dominate. Examples include Forever 21 and H&M.
- Disposable income. Teens' priorities have shifted from clothing to gadgets and eating out. Gadgets and electronics now account for a much higher percentage of teen expenditures than ever before, a recent Piper Jaffray report found. And for the first time in 13 years, teens last year spent more money on eating out than on clothes.
- Brands have become less important to teens. Abercrombie, for example, is taking its logo off merchandise. Teens say they no longer want it.
- No longer the teen hangout. Teen mall traffic has fallen by 30 percent over the last decade, a trend that has quickened since 2007, the Piper Jaffray report says.
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