Retailers Seek Bonanza in Tweens and Female Surfers

Tweens—the age group so named because its members are between early childhood and the teenage years, (7 to l4)—spend an estimated $90 billion a year, and they are doing so with a newfound independence. The days of mom bringing home new school clothes for the tween are in the past. Due in part to dual working parents' spending less time on their kids as well as indulging them more when they do, youngsters in this age group have more freedom to choose their own clothes. Add in television, magazines, the Internet,and other media,and girls in particular, have become more fashion-conscious and trendy. Clothing manufacturers and retailers have taken notice—to the chagrin of many parents.

Retail giant Wal-Mart has doubled floor space for preteen girls over the past year. Sears now offers trendier clothes for the age group and has sponsored concert tours for Christina Aguilera and Backstreet Boys—both popular with preteens. While these chains are doing well, it is the specialty retailers that are really capturing the market. Limited Too, which offers trendy clothes, glittery makeup, and extras like instore ear piercing, dominates the apparel niche. Girl Mania offers hairstyling and birthday parties, while Club Libby Lu in Chicago greets customers with a glittering of "fairy dust" and allows them to mix their own shower gel, moisturizer, and lip gloss. Bath & Body Works offers pedicure kits for the 4- to 12-year-old set.

Many of these tweens are driving another retail niche market upward—surf apparel. The changing profile of the surfer—the number of young females has

substantially increased — has led to opportunities for brands previously only marketed to males. Quicksilver Inc., a Huntington Beach, California, surf wear company, recently predicted that revenue for girls' products will eclipse sales to men and boys by the year 2004. Another southern California company, Billabong USA, has seen a 50 percent increase in girls' surf wear over the last three years. While already on the increase, the $2.4 billion market was expected to explode in the summer of 2002 when the girls' surf movie "Blue Crush" was released. (Just the release of movie trailers has already led to surf schools being swamped with enrollments.) The big winner is expected to be Billabong, whose name will be prominently displayed on the girls' wetsuit shirt as a result of a product placement arrangement with Universal Studios. Many of those in the industry consider the placement a major coup. Others like Pacific Sunwear have invested in other promotional opportunities. Pac-Sun will spend a record $10 million on marketing in magazines such as Seventeen, Teen People, and YM.

Not everyone is happy, however. Many parents and consumer advocates feel that the companies are taking advantage of tweens, who they contend are overly impressionable and insecure at this stage of their lives. They contend that girls who are "barely past Beanie Babies" are being pushed too quickly toward mascara and navel rings. Consider Abercrombie & Fitch, for example. In just one of the recent controversies surrounding the retailer, thong underwear bearing the words "wink wink" and "eye candy" were being marketed to 9- and 10-year-olds.The company was deluged with e-mails from people enraged with the strategy. While Marshal Cohen of NPDFashion-World notes that Abercrombie is "all about selling sex, even to the younger kid," the company response was that sex is in the eye of the beholder and their products are designed with only prurient purposes in mind.

However, a number of people are concerned enough to fight back. One organization, Girls, Inc., a New York-based nonprofit, holds meetings in schools, in homes, and elsewhere to talk with tween girls about the messages they receive from TV, videos, and magazine ads. The organization recently offered a program called Body IMAGEination intended to help girls age 7 to 11 deal with peer pressures to dress more provoca-tively.The organization has a huge battle ahead!

Sources: Leslie Earnest,"Apparel Retailers Catch New Girls' Surfing Wave," Los Angeles Times, July 5,2002, latimes.com, pp. 1-3; Leslie Earnest, "'Tweens: From Dolls to Thongs," Los Angeles Times, June 27,2002, p. 1.

explored, as will perspectives regarding consumer learning and external influences on the consumer decision process. The chapter concludes with a consideration of alternative means of studying consumer behavior.

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