Kids Are Calling More Shots Over Household Media Choices

Kids have always been a big factor in family purchase decisions but their influence appears to be growing - especially when it comes to decisions about the acquisition of new media options.

Specifically, the influence consumers ages 8 to 17 have over the books, music, newspapers, magazines, DVDs, as well as food purchases, acquired by their households has increased by 10 percent or more in the past year, according to findings of the 2003 Roper Youth Report.

The study, which ws released Wednesday by Roper ASW, is based on 500 in-depth personal interviews and is considered a key piece of consumer research.

"Purchasing clout among today's kids has expanded beyond the traditional borders of snack food and video games," noted Ed Keller, CEO of Roper ASW. "We are beginning to see children as young as eight having an impact on new, more sophisticated areas like home design."

The study does offer one ironic finding. While kids are exerting greater influence than ever over family purchase decisions, they likely are a less significant source of actually funding those purchases. Roper found that parents have significantly cut the median allowance among 8-17 year olds over the last year. For 8-12 year olds, the median allowance has fallen from $10 in 2002 to $5 in 2003. Similarly, 13 to 17 year olds saw five dollars sliced off the top of their $20, 2002 median allowance this year.

Despite these tough times for teens, they're still going to the mall and they're still spending. Nine out of ten teens go to the mall at least "occasionally," up slightly from last year, with one third going "fairly often," and ten per cent going out "very often." When asked the next thing they plan to buy with their money, clothing (29%), video games (16%), and CDs (15%) topped the list.

According to the data, more and more 8-17 year olds are saving up for more expensive purchases. Clothing, shoe, and music purchases rose 8, 5, and 3 per cent respectively among teens and tweens. Thirty-two percent of kids are saving money for clothes, 15% for shoes, and 13% for music purchases.

A further one-quarter of teens say they are saving because "it's good to save,"-a 21% increase from last year's report. College saving, however, has lost steam as a motivating factor for kids to hold onto their money, sputtering to 29% from 34% last year-further indication that our children have no concept of just how expensive college really is.

In spite of the economic setbacks, Keller applauds the pervading "save now, spend later" spirit of young consumers, noting that its not easy for them to have to wait for what they want in today's instant gratification society. "The sales cycle may be longer, but kids today continue to be strong consumers," said Keller. "Delayed gratification isn't easy, especially in today's face paced world. Marketers must appeal to and applaud their ability to save up for the things they want to purchase."

The data also points out that candy (35%), soda and soft drinks (26%), clothes (25%) and food (21%) were the leaders in the most recent purchases category.

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