Cargo pants are over. The Backstreet Boys are cool--and way cute. 7th Heaven is the must-see TV show on the new must-see network, the WB. And, yes, computer literacy is as fundamental as learning your ABC's.
Welcome to the wonderful world of preteen America. Oh sure, much fuss is made over the awesome spending power of these kids' elder siblings--a.k.a., teens. Rest assured, however, that the legions of 9- to 12-year-olds whimsically referred to as "tweens" boast a shopping force all their own.
And they're not afraid to use it. "Finally, someone woke up and smelled the statistics," observes Karen Bokram, publisher and founding editor of Girls' Life magazine. "Whichever group has the largest number of people drives the culture. The only other [comparable group to today's youngsters] is their parents--the baby boomers--and who the hell wants to talk about them anymore?"
Who indeed? Although exact figures are hard to come by, we do know tween purchasing dollars number in the billions--and that's before tacking on the additional billions worth of influence these kids exercise over household expenditures. "More and more parents are ceding power to their kids," agrees Dan Acuff, author of What Kids Buy & Why: The Psychology of Marketing to Kids (Free Press). "Take fast food--which [restaurants] do we go to? We go to the ones they want. That's a tremendous influence."
Debra Phillips is a former senior editor for Entrepreneur.