Garett Jones  

Driving the Cool Kids Out

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Abercrombie and Fitch doesn't carry jeans with a waist size larger than 36 inches.  But the Centers for Disease Control reports that the median American male has a 40 inch waist. Why does A&F give up on so many potential customers?  The reason is obvious: They want the cool kids to buy their stuff.  As a result, A&F discriminates against me and tens of millions of other Americans.  

That's part of building a successful brand: Choosing your customers wisely.  A&F use size choices to choose their customer base; and as Bryan has noted, elite malls can use high prices to select for the right kinds of cars in the parking lot.  

But today I saw a particularly creative method of customer selection: A policy of driving the cool kids out.  SweetFrog, a successful chain of Christian self-serve frozen yogurt shops, openly advertises their uncoolness: The cartoon frogs, the good cheer, the overt displays of religiosity.  What self-respecting hipster is going to show up there?  Let's all go to the "metro-focused" Pinkberry.  

And I suspect that's one of the keys to SweetFrog's success. Frozen yogurt is a product that teens and college students often purchase, but if a store has a lot of those customers in the 13-22 age bracket, you can predict with some accuracy what kind of language will be floating around the store on a Saturday night. Not exactly a child-friendly environment.  

So a frozen yogurt shop has two choices: Get the 13-22 crowd or get the family crowd.  SweetFrog went for the latter.  Maybe that's just a market segmentation equilibrium (I buy my uncool jeans at LL Bean; I wish no harm upon A&F), or maybe SweetFrog believes that when the kid wants dessert the whole family comes along.  Either way, their model seems to be doing well

Bonus: By driving the cool kids out, SweetFrog likely has less of a problem with workers giving product away to their friends.  I had a friend in high school who got a job working at a frozen yogurt shop precisely because he was unpopular: The owner was tired of losing inventory every time the cool kids came by.  

Coda: SweetFrog also exemplifies the puzzle raised by Arnold

Explain why, with unemployment over 9 percent, there has emerged the phenomenon of self-service frozen yogurt shops.


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CATEGORIES: Business Economics



COMMENTS (10 to date)
drobviousso writes:

That's easy (for my tastes anyway). It is easier and more fun to put the toppings on at a topping bar than explain to another person what I want from a list or picture guide. This is even more true for my three year old.

David R. Henderson writes:

I had a friend in high school who got a job working at a frozen yogurt shop precisely because he was unpopular: The owner was tired of losing inventory every time the cool kids came by.
Great line and observation, Garett.

Norman Pfyster writes:

A&F is aimed at teenagers, not the median American male.

Garett Jones writes:

Thanks, David!

Medford writes:

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Ken B writes:

The irony of a bunch of us with math skills discussing on an economics blog, using terms like 'segmentation equilibrium', the pluses of driving the cool kids out is delicious.

Joe Cushing writes:

Even with high unemployment, it's still a lot cheaper for people to get their own yogurt than to pay some 16 year old girl go get it for them. There is better service too because the line would be less likely to develop. Frozen treat places often get long lines at peak times. They aren't going to hire a bunch of people to work just for the peak times and pay them to sit around at other times. Several people could get their yogurt at the same time in a self serve. Short lines lead people to the self checkout at the grocery store too.

Tim Shaughnessy writes:

What's worse, even the marginally cool ("36-inch") A&F kids probably aren't cool in reality:

http://artofmanliness.com/trunk/462/your-pants-are-lying-to-you/

ThomasL writes:

@Tim

FWIW, to match your trouser size, a belt would need to be one or two inches bigger to account for width of the cloth. (Of course, a lot of companies "vanity size" their trousers too.)

In a nod toward belt manliness, there is only one choice: the Beltman (thebeltman.net)

lemmy caution writes:

Also, if you are obese your measured waist will be likely larger than your pant size waist because people currently wear their pants below any belly fat.

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