Sorry, Target: Future Fashionistas Prefer Justice

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Justice clothesYou might not have heard of tween-focused chain Justice, but young girls are swooning over its fashions. In fact, girls age 7 to 12 now call the specialty retailer their main clothing crush, as opposed to their former steady, Target (TGT).

For the 12-month period that ended in March, Justice sold more tween girls clothing than Target: The chain owned an 11% market share among 7- to 12-year-old fashionistas in training, according to David Jaffe, president and CEO of Justice parent company Ascena Retail Group (ASNA), during the Piper Jaffray consumer conference in New York this week. He was citing data from the market research firm the NPD Group.Justice clothes

So how did value-priced Justice win the hearts of these young ladies and eclipse the cheap-chic discounter, which has a 10.4% share of the market?

"We think we're more fashionable than Target," Jaffe told DailyFinance. (The Ascena group also owns apparel chains Dress Barn and Maurices chain, and is in the process of acquiring Charming Shoppes, parent company of Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug.)

Justice prides itself on having its finger on the pulse of tween style, boasting a huge assortment of trendy fashion and accessories -- be they for the sporty girl or the dressy girl, Jaffe said.

A trip to Justice's website turned up a "trend alert" section that listed the "newest styles every girl's gotta have," from sequined one-shoulder tops to tie-dye cropped tees and skinny colored jeans in the bright hues that are all the rage right now.

But "It's not just about apparel -- it's all about [addressing] that lifestyle for the little girl," he said. "It's all the accessories -- [from] what they want to bring to a slumber party, to hair stuff and body care."

Justice's "cata-zines" (catalog/magazines), promotional email blasts and loyalty discount perks -- 90% of its merchandise is sold at 40%-off sales -- have also helped it win over tweens, Jaffe said.

Only Walmart, with a 12.5% market share, sells more clothes to tweens, according NPD figures -- and that might soon change, Jaffe said. Justice has an opportunity to eclipse the world's biggest retailer in its little niche, because Walmart recently "decided that they're just not going after fashion," he said. Stay tuned.

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Sorry, Target: Future Fashionistas Prefer Justice

Japanese retailer Uniqlo has set out to make utilitarian clothing -- with features like milk protein softening fibers -- cool, whether you're 16 or 60.

Uniqlo's concept is sort of like an Apple Store (AAPL) for fashion; it showcases affordable apparel in a modernist setting, with items like $12.90 camisoles featuring Heattech, its exclusive heat-retaining and moisture-resistant technology.

Showcasing high-performance, stylish clothing in a sleek setting is how Uniqlo hopes to "revolutionize" mass retailing in the U.S., Shin Odake, CEO of Uniqlo USA, told DailyFinance during a tour of its new 64,000-square foot outlet in New York City.

"Think American Apparel, but done a little better." That describes Joe Fresh, according to Craig Johnson, CEO of retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. The Canadian retailer is expanding in the U.S., and is on a mission to "solve the family's fashion needs," with an affordable range of "accessible, of the moment style," for women, men and children, as well as beauty products, says the Joe Fresh Facebook page.

Adds Joe Feldman, managing director of retail consultancy Telsey Advisory Group: "Joe Fresh is the new kid on the block in the fast-fashion space. It has a clean look and attractive pricing."

Watch out H&M, Mango and Zara: The British are coming. U.K. retailer Topshop is quietly making a mark on the U.S. retail scene, bringing its twist on fast-fashion to the States.

The retailer is "an upscale -- but not luxury -- fashion-driven business which imports tremendous fashion and shoe merchandise from the U.K.," Gilbert Harrison, founder and chairman of Financo, the boutique investment firm, tells DailyFinance. Now the chain is expanding in the U.S. and Canada.

The retailer opened in-store boutiques in 14 of Nordstrom's department stores in September.

But while Topshop's merchandise is edgy in the fast-fashion tradition, "It appeals to a broader swath of customers than either Zara or Mango, and is a little higher priced, but better quality, than H&M," for example, Johnson says.

GAP) might be struggling, but it's online division Piperlime has been a bright spot for the retailer.

Unlike the mother chain that sells clothing exclusively under the Gap brand, Piperlime features apparel, shoes, handbags and accessories from a host of fashion brands, ranging from 7 For All Mankind and Calvin Klein, to Anne Klein, BCBG, Badgley Mischka and Kenneth Cole to Naturalizer and Nine West.

Piperlime also plays the role of your personal stylist. The site features guest editors like stylist Rachel Zoe, who dispense fashion advice and offer their picks of hot trends and products available on the site.

The retailer expanded with the addition of men's clothing this fall.

Glenn Murphy, Gap's CEO, has said the retailer is a growth vehicle for the chain. And there are whispers that Gap might open Piperlime stores.

Charming Charlie sells affordably priced earrings, necklaces, bracelets, handbags, scarves and belts for women of all ages in a variety of looks, from vintage, modern, glamorous and global fare to bohemian and punk rocker-inspired styles. Named "hot retailer of the year" by the International Council of Shopping Centers in 2010, it's reminiscent of Claire's, the teen accessories chain, but for a broader audience, Johnson says. And it's "very hot and expanding right now."

Chris Burch opened his first C. Wonder store in New York City's trendy Soho neighborhood this year, selling upscale clothing, jewelry, handbags, accessories and home decor "at astonishing values," according the retailer's web site.

C. Wonder, which is now expanding to mall locations, features classically designed fashion and accessories in some unexpected colors, like chartreuse and ecru. Merchandise is showcased in a store designed to delight the senses, featuring ever-changing floor and window displays.

While C. Wonder "may look a bit like Tory Burch, only with a green versus orange motif, [but it's] more than a bit less expensive," Johnson says.

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