Designers Tap the Under 13 Market

Dressed in pink Uggs, Seven jeans and a matching pink sweater and cap, Elizabeth Cohen looks the epitome of hip as she winds her way through the holiday crowds at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles.

Under 13

She is a discerning consumer — her Ugg boots are not knockoffs, and she names Prada and Dolce & Gabbana as her favorite brands.

She’s also 10 years old.

“I ask her, ‘What do you need these for?’ ” said her mother, Jane Cohen of Bel-Air, who shops mostly at vintage stores and garage sales.

But the 10-year-old is hardly unusual. Elizabeth and other “tweens” — kids who are 8 to 12 — are expected to contribute to growing demand for luxury goods this winter.

Today, the season shopfest begins in earnest with day-after-Thanksgiving sales, crowds and traffic jams. For tweens and their older teenage counterparts, the search is on for expensive accessories, belts, purses and perhaps a pair of shoes such as those seen in fashion shows and glossy magazines.

“There’s a huge uptick in teens shopping for traditional luxury brands,” said Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, a strategic marketing firm that recently conducted a survey of teenagers’ preferences. “Having a Gucci scarf is part of being a kid today.”

To be sure, even on the affluent Westside of Los Angeles, these youths rarely have closets full of luxury goods.

Many, including Elizabeth, also shop at stores such as Target or Gap, looking for bargains. Frequently, they mix and match with luxury accessories.

“It’s not only the rich communities — it’s anywhere that kids have an income,” Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Consulting Group in New York, said about teens and tweens buying luxury products. “A lot more kids earn money than used to, and they feel they have the right to spend their money as they see fit.”

Taylor said many of the teenagers buy these brands with allowance money or wages earned from part-time jobs. This can lead to a fair amount of spending on brands once known only to the rich and famous.

“They’re 100% more brand-conscious today than they used to be,” said Fraser Ross, owner of the upscale Robertson Boulevard store Kitson. “A 12-year-old will know what Louis Vuitton is.”

Kitson is known as a high-end Westside celebrity haunt, near the Ivy restaurant. A year ago, Ross added Kitson Kids nearby, but he said tweens still prefer items at his main store, such as $190 Seven for All Mankind jeans and $650 Isabella Fiore handbags.

Many of these customers, he said, see celebrities wearing certain brands and buy the same ones. Some browse the store aisles while their mothers have lunch at the Ivy. “I call them ABC girls — Armani, Blahnik, Chanel,” Ross said. “They wear everything branded.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jenny January 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

This is sad. Consumerism insures global warming and mindless humans.

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