Toronto Star

November 25, 1999

`Tweens' flexing consumer muscle

Kids aged 9 to 14 control $1.6 billion income, survey finds

By Elaine Carey
Toronto Star Demographics Reporter

Today's 9- to 14-year-olds are getting better pay raises than their parents - by a long shot.

Between them, Canada's 2.44 million ``tweens'' control $1.6 billion in income this year, an average $667 per young person, according to a national survey for YTV released yesterday.

That's an increase of 6.7 per cent over last year - almost double their parents' increase in disposable income - and a whopping 45 per cent increase since 1995.

Even that may be underestimating the buying power of these young people, because more parents are letting their kids use credit cards to buy music, software and other stuff on-line, says retail consultant Len Kubas.

``We think the use of their parents' credit cards is going to grow even further with the growth in on-line shopping,'' he said.

As well, the survey found three out of four tweens get money ``as needed'' from their parents, as do the same proportion of 6- to 8-year-olds.

More mothers are working, so they're letting their 9- to 14-year-olds do their own shopping; they're having fewer kids so there's more money to go around; and ``parents are feeling guilty so they're trying to make up for spending less time with their kids by indulging them once in a while,'' says Julie Look, director of research for YTV.

Close to half get weekly allowance of nearly $8

As well, ``mix and match'' families mean there are more stepparents and stepgrannies to indulge them, she says.

Marketers can't wait to get their hands on this 9 to 14 age group, the largest cohort since their baby boomer parents were that age. With ever-changing tastes in clothing, games and music, parents haven't a clue what to buy them anymore - so they're giving them money as gifts.

The survey of 610 9- to 14-year-olds and their parents across Canada was conducted by Creative Research International and is considered accurate to within plus or minus four percentage points 19 times out of 20.

It found close to half of them get an allowance that averages $7.80 a week, up from $7 last year. This, plus $157 for back-to-school clothes and supplies, $78 from family and relatives for birthdays and $73 for major holidays account for the bulk of their spending.

At the top of their shopping list are clothes, food, non-electronic games, toys, magazines and CDs, although boys put entertainment ahead of food and clothes.

As well, tweens have a significant influence over household buying decisions, the survey found. Three-quarters of them say they're often consulted when parents are buying clothing, computers, software and even the family car. Parents say their kids influence their buying decisions 82.6 per cent of the time.

One in five tweens are working part-time an average of 6 1/2 hours a week, with boys mainly doing outdoor work and girls babysitting.

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