• Business Insider

Teens feel 'misunderstood' — and it's destroying mall anchors like Macy's and Nordst

Retailers are clamoring to figure out how to appeal to teens.

But it seems that some of their attempts may be lost.

When Business Insider polled 110 teens to find what they like and don't like about retail, we found out that more than a third — a whopping 39.25% — feel like retailers do not understand them.

Only 41.12 % said they did feel understood. The remaining teens polled selected "other," and it was pretty clear that they felt conflicted about today's retailers.

Here are some select comments from the teens we polled:

"Somewhat, they understand clothing but lack the knowledge on how to perfectly display it to teens. Sales are pushed to the back but trend want the sale stuff to be displayed at the front," one wrote.

"Some do, others are pathetic," another wrote.

"They are trying to but they can't pin point," another wrote.

"Stores don't understand anything, they are predicted market trends in fashion and selling as much product while it is still in 'fashion,' no one actually cares just make quality clothes at affordable prices," another wrote.

"I'm not sure because although I like some clothing, other times the shirts or shorts are short and cropped and make me feel insecure," one teen wrote.

And one teen raises a valid point:

"They've never asked."

Further, this general feeling of being misunderstood raises a point that some retailers — perhaps teen brands that ruled the malls in the early aughts and late '90s — keep misfiring with teens, and this very well may be why.

Consider Aeropostale. The brand — which filed for bankruptcy in May — was on its way out before a large percentage of teens even started purchasing clothes. In fact, 58.18% of the teens we polled told us that they had never been inside Aeropostale store.

"The majority of the blame for recent poor performance lies squarely with Aero which has failed to realign itself to the changing fashion demands of younger shoppers. Indeed, Aero has a range that looks more at home in the mid 2000s than 2015 and which fails to provoke the interest of younger shoppers," Neil Saunders, CEO of consulting firm Conlumino, wrote in an email to Business Insider this spring.

In other words: it wasn't for today's teens. No wonder some might have felt misunderstood.

Abercrombie & Fitch has made multiple detours to improve its apparel and marketing schemesto appeal to today's young consumers (though Chairman Arthur Martinez told Business Insiderthat the brand is actually targeting 18-to-25-year-olds now).

The only way to win teen retail is to truly understand them — which is in part being as quick as their social media feeds — if not quicker.

"You need to be 10 steps ahead of your customer, and I think the whole space was shaken up by fast fashion and Forever 21," Gabriella Santaniello, consultant and founder of A Line Partners, said this past spring.

If teens today are living through social media, they understandably will want fashion that is churned out as quickly as fast fashion bands, which thereby threatens retailers that don't come equipped with those rapid supply chains (or the attractive price point). And as it stands, social media is already threatening traditional mall retail