Businesses Saying No to Unsupervised Teens

The storied teenage tradition of the mall hangout could be coming to an end.

Malls, movie theaters and other businesses around the country are increasingly imposing rules requiring teenagers to be accompanied by adult chaperones, The Associated Press reported Sunday (May 28).

The reason? Bad behavior among teens, some of it inspired by TikTok. The report noted that these policies have many fans, who say these rules prevent disruptions to business and foster a safer environment for shoppers.

It’s a change that’s happening as many retailers say they’re dealing with an uptick in crime, particularly theft.

For example, Ulta Beauty CEO Dave Kimbell said last week he was worried about an escalation of violence and aggressive behavior seen during organized retail thefts. 

“Protecting our associates and keeping our employees safe is our main concern,” Kimbell said when announcing his company’s latest quarterly earnings.

As PYMNTS wrote, other retailers have raised similar concerns about organized retail crime, which involves professional, large-scale theft. 

For example, Dollar Tree revised its profit outlook downward last week due to “shrinkage,” which includes issues like theft, damage, and other losses.

“While we are seeing early results from our initiatives, we are not immune to the external pressures affecting all of retail, notably, the margin impact of elevated shrink and the product mix shift to consumables,” CEO Rick Dreiling said in a news release. 

However, critics of the new parental controls say they can stunt social development in teenagers, who had already been spending a lot of time online thanks to the pandemic.

“We have to allow spaces for young people to be independent and develop socially beyond the context of the virtual digital environment,” Jake Bjorseth, head of trndsttrs, a Gen Z-focused advertising agency, told the AP.

He warned that the chaperone rules could backfire by causing kids to spend even more time in digital spaces and less time in physical hangouts.

But Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser at market research firm Circana, argued that these policies are also about shifting to a post-pandemic consumer environment, marked by a sharp drop in spending by shoppers ages 18-24.

PYMNTS’ research backs up that drop in spending among younger consumers. For example, it’s this age group that has led a steep drop in subscriptions to both Walmart+ and Amazon Prime, with data showing declines in subscription rates of more than 10 percentage points among this cohort.