On a Mission to Buy, With a Plan of Attack

Andrea Mirviss, left, and Allison Furtine try on dresses at Bloomingdale's. Andrea had to tear herself away from them, saying she needed to
Andrea Mirviss, left, and Allison Furtine try on dresses at Bloomingdale's. Andrea had to tear herself away from them, saying she needed to "stay on task." (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 4, 2007

Allison Furtine, Natalie Geisler and Andrea Mirviss had a plan. The middle school classmates from Potomac had been saving up for this shopping trip for weeks. They were ready to spend.

"Do you want to hear what stores we're going to?" Natalie asked.

She rattled off the list on the way to Bloomingdale's: Free People, Hollister, Abercrombie, Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. They sped past cosmetics, straight for the escalator and third-floor designers, where they fanned out like pinballs, bouncing from rack to rack.

"That is so cute, that looks SO cute!" Allison gasped as Andrea held up a yellow trapeze dress with a Pucci-inspired collar at Bloomingdale's.

The 14-year-old fingered a few more dresses before tearing herself away.

"I have to get away from dresses because I'm falling in love, and I need shorts," Andrea said, heading away from the racks. "I have to stay on task."

Meet the goal-oriented teen shopper. Many of the girls came to Tysons on a mission to buy, prepped with a mental list of stores to hit and clothes to try on. They did online research worthy of a final exam. They plotted their path to the next destination before leaving their current locations. Sure, hanging out with friends is important. But so is checking off the shopping list.

"There was a green dress I saw in the catalogue," Caroline Gagarin, 14, of Springfield informed a perky blonde saleswoman as soon as she walked into Delia's.

Actually, it was a jumper, with white hearts dotted all over it and white, heart-shaped buttons. Caroline knows the store's mail-order catalogue back and forth. She even brings it to school and cuts it up, picking out the clothes she likes.

More than half of teen girls go to the mall with a specific store or purchase in mind, according to a survey last year by Forrester Research. Nearly three-quarters of girls had been to the mall in the past three months and bought something. Hanging out with friends was only the fifth-most-common reason for going to the mall among all teens. And of course they're all online: About 86 percent of kids nationwide younger than 18 have broadband Internet access at home, spending an average of 11 hours a week online. More than half have purchased an item online.

Whitley Gaffney, 16, of Burke and four of her friends dashed straight to Nordstrom. The designer shoes got only a passing glance -- ohhh, those red gingham wedges! -- on the way to the real destination. Whitley broke away from the other girls and disappeared behind racks of summer dresses and flouncy skirts in the Brass Plum department. She emerged minutes later with a striped yellow shirt-dress she had spied two months earlier.

"It's not online," she said, hugging the dress close to her body even though it was still on the hanger. It's also not on sale, but Whitley is enamored. "I want it anyway."

Most of the teens made at least six stops, ranging from Subway to Sephora, in less than three hours at the mall. Power shoppers Natalie Mabile, 15, of McLean and Shannon Yarnoff, 14, of Falls Church managed to fit in at least 16 stores each: Coach, Ruehl, Papaya, Barnes & Noble, H&M, Finish Line, PacSun, Forever 21, MNG by Mango, Macy's, CVS, Wet Seal, Hallmark, United Colors of Benetton, Hollister, Fresh & Fruity smoothies, Delia's, Abercrombie & Fitch and its children's line, abercrombie.

Shannon explains that she doesn't get to shop very often. She blames her mother.

"My mom hates the mall," she said.

Allison Colby, 14, of College Park was so excited about her purchases that she put on the shirt she bought from Abercrombie that day and her new wedge sandals from Old Navy. Thirteen-year-old Adam Rothe of Burke was done shopping in less than two hours. He met up with his friends for lunch sporting a freshly purchased pair of white Nike Shox from Foot Locker on his size 8 1/2 feet. His mom, Beverly Magida, stuck his old sneakers in the Nike shoe box.

"I just come and I get something and I leave," Adam said. "I don't look at, like, 15 stores for one pair of jeans."

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