One of the most beloved clothing stores from decades ago is reopening
Limited Too represents a simple time in my life: a time with "As Long As You Love Me" by the Backstreet Boys and "Spice Up Your Life" by the Spice Girls as its soundtrack. A time illustrated by butterfly hair clips and glitter. A time when I was in a girl-group with my friends called Peppermint with a song that we sang at my birthday party called "Slam It Down."
A time that, while devoid of adult-life conflict like a slowed-down metabolism and financial responsibilities, is still a time to which I would not go back, given the opportunity.
But it appears that the retailer is banking on the fact that many other women will.
Limited Too, the clothing purveyor of many millennial women's youths, is coming back, much to the delight of the Internet. The store, which had around 600 stores at its peak and was later soaked into Justice, was acquired by Bluestar Alliance this past summer; the New York Post noted it launch this fall, and about 200 stores would follow suit . Now, it's on the hot list of things to anticipate in 2016 — it's coming; release the glitter!
See photos from Limited Too stores:
That's, at least, the reaction the news of the store's return garnered. The young, female, exuberant subsector of the Internet was exhilarated when this news came out this summer.
How could they not? In an era of #TBTs and shareable content, nostalgia is practically fuel, and as Bluestar Alliance CEO Ralph Gindi told the New York Post, "We are going to bring it all back."
"Nostalgia marketing is ... an effective strategy to engage with millennials," Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief strategic officer of image-making agency YARD, wrote in a note to Business Insider. "Millennials tend to look inwards — we joke that they're narcissists, but it's true they want to see things that reflect them, and they like looking back at their own lives. Just see the popularity of throwback Thursday #tbt on Instagram."
And many millennial women are moms, and are shopping for more than just themselves. "Moreover, many millennials are becoming parents themselves, meaning they are the moms who will be shopping Limited Too for their kids," she explained.
And essentially, to bring back something is in touch with the current social media climate; to revive a dead brand is to speak the language of millennials.
"These references are rife on Instagram — there's a certain credibility that comes with being able to show you 'knew something back then' or remember 'how it used to be,' and that's a large part of Millennial pride, owning and defining their generation," Bernstein noted, pointing to the "you know you were born in the '80s" listicles.
It seems like a brilliant strategy. But could it work?
"Limited Too's nostalgia-heavy marketing strategy will work for moms, since it gains their attention in a crowded market, but ultimately it only works for both moms and their kids if the product is high quality," Bernstein explained. "Brands can't rely entirely on nostalgia to do the work for them. While it can be a great way to reintroduce a brand, the brand still has to deliver in a current and relevant way."
Nostalgia — while powerful — could also make Limited Too seem out of touch, given that the audience who has to wear the apparel isn't yearning for the retailer's heyday.
"Brands that play with nostalgia with no consideration for the current climate can risk coming across as out of touch, alienating existing consumers and missing out on connecting with a new audience. The key is to use nostalgia as an emotional hook while also bringing something new to the table," Zaid Al-Asady, Vice President and Creative Director of advertising agency Deutsch, wrote to Business Insider.
And lest we forget the infuriating power of apparel. The same crop of humans who squealed with delight at the prospect of its return — would balk loudly, as social justice warriors are wont to do, at some of the store's former shirts, much as they've been appalled by Old Navy's and Target's tees.
In a 2007 essay for Slate, Emily Yoffe recalled some of the retailer's transgressions, namely three shirts that said "I left my brain in my locker," "I only shop on days that end in Y," and "spoiled and proud of it." Would the Twitter generation stand for that? And would the same millennial moms — ones that call themselves "feminists" — dress their daughters in those shifts?
In order to really succeed, Limited Too needs to be looking forward, rather than just digging up the glittery skeletons from the past.
"There's an opportunity for Limited Too to reclaim a space in the market for tween [and] teen shopping. Given the enormous size and spending power of Gen Z, this group of shoppers will be looking for brands who cater to them in a unique and relevant way. " Paul Munkholm, director of strategy at digital agency Kettle, explained.
"However, they probably don't want to shop at their 'mom's brand,' so it will be important for Limited Too to retain its brand essence, while evolving for today's tween. It's less about a throwback to the nineties and more about keying into what made it so successful then and finding a way to offer that idea to the Gen Z shopper. The best shopping experiences today are shared, allow for exploration, and for self expression. If the Limited Too can offer those things, then they have a great chance to reestablish themselves in the market," Munkholm noted.
Generation Z is a particular crop; they crave authenticity, and denounce stores with negative causes. They also primarily shop online. Limited Too ultimately can cultivate a renaissance by infusing its sassy tween apparel with what young people like today.
Limited Too faces one other potential struggle: the tough environment that traditional mall retailers face. Many traditional retailers been struggling. It's become more important than ever for retailers to embrace digital modalities and to engage shoppers outside of the store.
But if there's any store that seems primed to engage with the fleeting attention spans of today's teenagers, it's Limited Too, which seems to have a built-in, glittery Snapchat brand — even if the store originally served a generation that grew up without smartphones. Cue the glitter and rainbows.
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