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The buying power of teens or is it ‘tweens?’

ARE WE THERE YET?
Charla Belinski
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I recently complimented one of my son’s seventh-grade classmates on the cute skinny jeans she was wearing.

“They’re from Abercrombie. We all have the same ones,” she said proudly, pointing out her three friends’ equally-cute pants. The mere mention of this ultra-hip clothing company sparked the image of a half-naked Abercrombie model, and I could feel myself almost blush.

“You should totally buy these for your daughter,” she went on. “If you buy them now when she’s young then she’ll be, like, setting the fashion instead of being behind. She won’t be all nerdy when she’s in seventh grade cuz she’ll already, like, be wearing them and stuff.”



OK, then. Good to know.

The fact that girls between the ages of 8 and 12, affectionately known as the ‘tween years, are so savvy may surprise me, but not astute marketers and manufacturers. In fact, a recent study from MarketResearch.com suggests the total buying power of tweens is expected to be $21 billion this year. Combine that with the power of their older siblings, 13- and 14-year olds, and the market research group estimates their buying power at closer to $43 billion. That’s 43 billion dollars, people. With that kind of dough, we could rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and still have enough left over to buy a Lip Smackers Strawberry Scoop lip gloss.



Watch any popular TV show and it’s no surprise today’s tweens and teens want more, more, more. Kids are barraged with messages telling them what looks are cool and what fashions are in. Too bad parents aren’t sending a few messages of their own, yet in many cases Mom and Dad fall prey to the same advertising tricks.

But we can’t blame ourselves (OK, maybe a little). Whole web sites and research teams are devoted to making sure retailers and manufacturers are up to speed on the latest market analysis and spending habits of today’s kids. These web sites and trade publications offer up advice to retailers on how to better reach children ” your children ” and how to “take full advantage of the highly profitable tween market.”

How does it feel to know your kids are blatantly being taken advantage of?

Parents may ultimately make the purchase decisions, these “researchers” acknowledge, but kids have a huge amount of influence over parents. “Tweens are very vocal in what they want and what they like,” says one such web site. Yeah, I think my parents used to call that whining and if you practiced being “very vocal” very often, you were much less likely to get what you wanted and more likely to get something you didn’t, if you catch my drift.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I know kids need to buy clothes and shoes and maybe even a cute little number to wear to the eighth grade dance. They may need to add a desk to their room in order to study, or a larger bed as their feet begin to dangle off the end of their old one. Kids grow and so do their needs. But let’s be clear on the distinction: no one needs body glitter. And no one needs zebra-print hair accessories or a bottle cap necklace that retails for $45, or HDTV makeup (yes, Virginia, there is an HDTV makeup ” you’re ready for your digital-age close-up). And sure they’re fun, they’re sassy, they make adorable birthday gifts and stocking stuffers. But they’re costing us $43 billion a year, and maybe even our own good sense.

I hope in a couple of years when it’s my daughter’s turn to buy a new pair of jeans for the seventh grade, she’ll be more concerned with being comfortable at her cramped little desk all day than setting the fashion trend. But then again, she hasn’t seen those cute little Abercrombie skinnies yet.

Charla Belinski’s column runs every other Sunday in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Contact her at belinskis@comcast.net.


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