Teens spent $160 billion in 1999. And KidsMarketing.com says tweens-those 9- to 12-year-old media darlings-are financially secure as well. Image matters here: According to the site's KidPulse E-Zine, tweens don't consider themselves kiddies. They're "culturally and brand aware." That fact, plus allowance inflation, has made it a viable market for manufacturers. GapKids and Limited Too have long prospered, but now Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein are jumping in. "More teens are buying status brands, so people who market clothing to teens are in competition not only with each other, but also with Gucci," says Karen Bokram, publisher and founding editor of Girls' Life magazine. But Bokram notes that in this market, smaller labels "stand a fighting chance" if they're stylish and reasonably priced.
For an entrepreneur entering the teen/tween fashion market, Bokram says starting in accessories and cosmetics is the way to go. Once you discover fashion is all-encompassing-from shoelaces to the sheets kids sleep on-the size of the market becomes obvious, as it did to Nancy Boyle, founder of Amber Mill Inc., the Lindenhurst, New York, creator of room décor brand Bullzye. Noticing that few companies were catering to teens' décor needs, Boyle, 36, developed the Bullzye concept (launched in 1999) and brought it to market with $75,000. After Nickelodeon.com sold her "Crystal Ice" selection, Boyle realized kids as young as 8 were choosing the merchandise.
Boyle, who projects 2001 sales of $500,000 and plans to expand into accessories and loungewear, reads teen lifestyle magazines and watches MTV to keep up with trends. And since the age of GrrrAnimals is over, we say, start brushing up.
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