Sorry, Target: Future Fashionistas Prefer Justice

Justice clothes
Justice clothes

You 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
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.