My daughter is seven, but she is so mature, articulate, and style-focused, she could easily be mistaken for a tween. And she’s not the only one. Because of her, I spend a lot of time among girls age five to ten and I can tell you with certainty that the girls of Gen We are different than we were. In retail, the term “Christmas Creep” refers to the earlier displaying of Christmas-related merchandise every year. In the same fashion, the girls of Gen We are being affected by “Tween Creep,” whereby girls as young as seven or eight are being targeted with style- and beauty-related products that in past generations would have been reserved for the tween years. If you are looking to explore the new beauty and style culture surrounding Gen We, there are three key places to look: the toy aisle, the makeup aisle, and the salon.
I will admit that I used to play beauty shop with my Barbies, but my generation never had anything close to the beauty-themed toy options available to Gen We girls today. Take the Let’s Play So Chic Salon, designed for girls as young as four. It actually simulates a real salon station complete with brush, clips, a sink with faucet, and a mirror adorned with big stars and lights so the budding stylist can admire her work. For the girl seeking a more relaxing experience, there is the Orbeez Soothing Spa. It features a cascading waterfall, ambient lighting, and perfume and claims to bring “a whole new level of fun” to pedicures. For the girl looking for bling, Cra-Z-Art has developed the Glitter & Sparkle Nail Design Studio so girls can glitterize their own nails and make glittering body gem tattoos. Little girls have always wanted to experiment with hair and makeup, to try on new identities, and to have fun. Gen We is no different. What has changed is the level of sophistication around beauty-related play. Instead of my daughter showing me her hacked-up Barbie hairstyles as I did with my mom, this mom now is on the receiving end of some pretty deluxe at-home pedicures.
According to the NPD Group, in 2005 the average age a girl in the U.S. began using beauty products was 17. Today, it’s 13.7. The tween girls of Gen We spend nearly $10 on beauty products every month. They’re also getting into more sophisticated makeup types like mascara and eyeliner sooner. Between 2007 and 2009, Mintel reported that the percentage of girls age eight to twelve who regularly used mascara and eyeliner nearly doubled, going from 10% to 18%. So who’s benefitting from the earlier onset of makeup and personal care product use? The big beauty players like Maybelline and Cover Girl of course, but it’s also created a market for more niche brands like Good For You Girls (carried at Whole Foods), which offers natural and organic skin care specifically formulated for the special needs of young skin. Specialty apparel retailers like Justice have also gotten a piece of the pie; their website alone features 132 items that fall within the beauty category, including things like SpaDazzle face cleansing brushes, hair tattoo stamps, and nail dryer sets. Gen We girls aren’t satisfied with sneaking into their mom’s makeup case like I was and trying out a little blush; they now want their own makeup kits, which are appearing on Christmas lists starting as young as age six. I’ll admit this mom caved in and bought one, primarily because there was less damage that could be done by experimenting with the sea of light pinks it included.
The final place you should look if you want to check out this new beauty and style culture is the salon. The ISPA 2012 U.S. Spa Industry Study reports that 29% of spas have a special package targeted toward thirteen to nineteen year olds, and 12% have a special package targeted toward under thirteen-year-olds. In addition to the increasing number of “for kids” services at adult-focused salons and spas, just-for-kids spas are popping up all over the place. Disney now offers its Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a “magical beauty salon where any little girl can make her dream of becoming a princess come true,” at Disney World, Disneyland, and on the Disney Cruise Line. Great Wolf Lodge offers the Scooops Kids Spa where a girl can get a Chocolate Covered Organic Facial at its 11 resorts. And if the Gen We girl needs a mani and she’s not on vacation, there is always Sweet & Sassy, a rapidly expanding salon, spa, and celebration place for kids, that already has 24 locations in 12 states. I will admit that our family contributed to the rapidly growing $5.32 billion industry they tout in franchisee materials by having a Runway Fashion Show Birthday party there a few months ago.
From four-year-old princesses to ten-year-old divas, it is clear that there is definitely “Tween Creep” when it comes to the targeting of style and beauty-related products and services. Is that a bad thing? I am not sure anyone knows for certain, but what I can tell you is that this category of products appeals to the Gen We girl’s desire for discovery, fun, and independence, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing its growth. As a marketer, I think it’s critical that we pay attention to this new beauty culture forming in front of our eyes; the kids of Gen We are already influencing personal care and beauty product decisions in the household, and they want stuff of their own. They are looking for things that are fun and help them to experiment with their identities, whether that is rock star or princess. Mom is still the gatekeeper when it comes to these types of products, but her attitudes have also changed. Though many of us have a fear of our daughters growing older younger, we also enjoy watching our daughters “be girly” within reason. Makeup in light pinks seems like a harmless indulgence to me and many other moms, and if taking my daughter with me to get a pedi allows me to have one, and at the same time bond with her, then I am all for it.