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Under-12 Market A Boom To Manufacturers

August 24, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ Ten-year-old Jimmie Marsh already has a bicycle, but that one just won’t do anymore. So he and his mom, Cecelia, head to Chicago’s mammoth Toys R Us store to check out a new two-wheeler.

In a spin around the store, Jimmie finds a shiny metallic purple bike to suit his needs. His allowance will help finance a chunk of the $82 bill, but mom needs to kick in the rest.

``I try to allow them to have things,″ Ms. Marsh says. ``They save their money, but it’s never enough _ there’s always more. But what can you do?″

It’s a scenario many parents are familiar with, and one that many manufacturers are hoping to cash in on _ as tiny tots become big business in today’s world.

With nearly one in five Americans now under 13, it’s no small wonder that ``kid-sized″ is starting to appear more and more in the modern vernacular.

Kids have an estimated $17 billion of their own buying power in the form of allowances. And that’s topped with an additional $130 billion from grown-ups, who face threats of tantrums, tears or taunts if their kids don’t get a piece of the latest fad.

``It was an area where the manufacturers overlooked for years and now realize is an ongoing growth opportunity,″ said Sal Alaimo, president of the marketing firm Limelight Inc. in Belle Mead, N.J.

With the aging Baby Boomers becoming less prone to spend extravagantly, manufacturers are trying to get them to buy for their children, who are expected to number about 52 million by the year 2000.

Toys and certain foods have always been provinces dominated by marketing to children, but from movies to television, clothes to cold remedies, kid clout appears to be growing.

``Kids have a tremendous power over their parents’ spending patterns AND kids are spending their own money,″ said Dr. Audrey Guskey, associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. ``When you look at this tremendous amount of money that kids are spending, it just blows your mind.″

Much of this spending is a direct result of the change in the family, especially with a growing number of homes where two parents work, marketing experts say. As a result, children have more input in family decision-making.

``Kids dictate where the family eats and often what they eat when they eat at home,″ said Robert Foley, director of sales for Country Side Products, a maker of child and adult sports water bottles. ``That’s a lot of money right there, and people seem to be finding new areas every day where kids are underrepresented.″

The movie industry has increasingly recognized the power of kids, following such blockbusters as ``Aladdin,″ ``The Lion King″ and ``Beauty and The Beast.″ Nearly one-third of last year’s summer movies were aimed at kids, and this summer’s movie lineup also is heavily family-oriented.

At the supermarket industry’s annual convention in May, a dazzling array of kids products were showcased, from Dial’s new kid-sized scented soaps to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cups and Pocahontas rubber stamps tied into the Disney movie.

Children also are fueling home computer purchases, with 13.7 million children having access to home computers today, and 3.1 million of them already able to surf the Internet, research shows.

Even the Public Broadcasting Service is seeing dollar signs in its eyes. Buoyed by the marketing success of ``Barney and Friends,″ PBS recently struck an unprecedented deal with Fisher-Price Inc. for a chunk of the profits from toys and games developed from the new series, ``The Puzzle Place,″ about ethnically diverse characters who work together to solve problems.

Marketers also are turning to kids as the buyers of the future. Saturday morning television, generally a province for children, has three times the number of commercials regular programming has, Guskey said.

That’s because many people maintain brand loyalty to the items they grew up with as a child.

``If you can get a kid to use Crest as a child, then that kid will use Crest as an adult,″ Guskey said. ``They’re trying to develop brand loyalties at an early age with slick gimmicks and interesting tactics to get a customer of the future.″

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