If you still assume that Claire’s and Limited Too are holding steady as teens’ favorite places to shop, it’s probably time to poll the middle-schooler in your life — because chances are, she’ll say "as if" (that's what teens still say, right?), and show you the new things she just bought at her current go-to, Five Below.
The company has been around since 2002, but it’s only just taken off within the past few years, opening hundreds of stores across America and bringing in $535 million in sales in the last 12 months alone. The brand is quickly and quietly overtaking the tween and teen market. Its secret? Hyper-trendy accessories and knick knacks at dirt-cheap prices. Nothing is over $5, regardless of whether it’s an animal print iPhone case, arts and crafts kits, or stackable bangles. "Our goal is not to be first to identify a trend — we have the ability to be a very fast second," the company’s CEO and co-founder Tom Vellios explained to Buzzfeed about Five Below’s strategy. "We take discretionary product and through our editing process, with the right quality and right trend and color, enable our customer to really want to come into our stores."
While Vellios said he hopes to plant Five Belows in every community across the U.S. (his goal is for 366 by the end of 2014, and 2,000 outposts within 20 years), the brand’s Internet presence is minimal. The focus is entirely upon brick and mortar stores, often in suburban strip malls, which could explain why, unless you’re a teenager, you probably aren’t familiar with the brand. "There is some type of an online play that will complement our bricks-and-mortar business, but we’re not in a hurry," Vellios said. "Right now, the business is 100% reliant on store visits." In fact, the website doesn't even allow e-commerce. Clearly, Five Below has tapped into a winning strategy here: teens are not only ready to spend their money, they don't mind asking their parents for a ride to go do it.