Targeting Tweens

The definitions vary, but let’s assume that tweens are between 8 and 12 years old—not small children anymore, but not yet teenagers. then let’s factor in what we DO know, which is that tweens not only wield hefty influence over family purchase decisions, but they actually have money of their own to spend. Enter retailers, and shopping center developers.

Developers Diversified Realty, Beachwood, Ohio, has in its sights the tween age group. And targeting tweens has prompted the developer to host some pretty outrageous promotions in its shopping centers. Aspen Grove, in Littleton, Colo., has hosted perhaps the most unusual affair—a wedding for dogs.

According to Jill Kobe, general manager for Aspen Grove, while the canine festivities weren’t choreographed only for tweens, the event served to attract them in packs. “‘Bow Wow Vows’ was intended to appeal to dog-owners, which is very important in this market,” said Kobe. “But we had a very high turnout of tweens.”

The promotion, held in May, featured a first-of-its-kind mass dog wedding with some 178 doggy couples and an unofficial shattering of the Guinness Book of World Records for mass dog weddings. It drew its primary target of adult dog-owners but had the residual effect of attracting the younger set. A subsequent—and tactical—video feed on the popular YouTube site cemented the promotion’s teen/tween success.

“Bow Wow Vows” may have scored an indirect hit with the tween-age audience, but another Aspen Grove promotion is a tween bulls-eye. In its fourth year, the Aspen Grove Film Festival features free family films on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Held outdoors, each evening event typically draws some 2,000 moviegoers—many of them tweens.

Tween-Think

Brand-identity consultant and author Alycia de Mesa has spent the last few years studying tweens—described as prepubescents between the ages of 8 to 14, 9 to 12, or 8 to 12, “depending on whom you believe,” she said. Regardless of the exact age definition, most agree that this is one powerful group.

According to research center KidsMarketing, Inc., tweens account for nearly $300 billion in consumer sales. (That amazing number includes dollars spent on tweens by parents and family members. Packaged Facts, a publishing division of MarketResearch.com, totaled the buying power of 8-to-12-year-olds at $18.4 billion—and estimated it would reach $21 billion by 2008.) Too Inc., the company that owns Justice and Limited Too, has gone on record with the assertion that tween girls alone spend nearly $11 billion each year just in apparel purchases.

With more than 20 million tweens living in the United States, savvy retailers are taking note of their vast—and increasing—buying power. And knowing how tweens think, and what they want to buy, gives retailers the keys to a powerful demographic vehicle.

“With the Film Festival, we are actively going after the tween market,” said Kobe. “All of our films—the 2007 lineup includes ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘Over the Hedge’ and ‘Happy Feet’—are geared toward tweens and they’re free, because we know that while tweens have disposable income, we want to keep their dollars available for shopping in the Aspen Grove stores.”

Not all shopping center owners and managers are so tween-savvy, but interest is on the rise.

“The tween generation is gaining in importance in the shopping center industry,” said Kobe. “Tweens provide us with an opportunity to cultivate loyalty at a young age. And if you can build the brand and develop a positive relationship with this group early on, you are, without a doubt, positioning yourself for future success.”

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