KidThink: What Today’s Kids are Thinking: Coolness is key if stores want kids business

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, we've asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so...
April 1, 1997

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think talked with kids via Live Wire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and Live Wire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or have subjects you would like to see Kid Think cover, call Bob Horne at 212-337-6410 (

This month, Live Wire went on-line to talk to kids age 12 to 15 about what clothing stores they shop at and why

What we found:

According to our Live Wire kids, there are a number of elements that go into deciding where to shop. First and foremost, if a store wants business from these kids, it’s got to be cool. Cool, according to our panel, is about individual style, which seems to contradict the fact that most of our kids list major chains as their favorite places to shop (see The gender Gap below).

Peer influence also has a strong impact on where kids shop. A friend’s opinion of a store can brand it cool or uncool, and our research shows that this is a factor for boys and girls. Victoria, age 13, from California, ech’es the opinions of many of our panelists when she says, ‘friends go into stores and they tell me if it was totally cool or not. [I] usually rely on my friends’ opinions.’

Price can make or break their decision to shop at a particular store, but it seems to be a bigger issue for boys than for girls. Boys mentioned it regularly, whereas only one girl mentioned price as a determining factor for where she will shop.

The gender Gap

The cool factor attracts kids, but what stores are providing this draw? Girls list Gap most often. Other favorites for girls are The Disney Store, JCPenney, The Limited, Wet Seal and Urban Outfitters. On the flip side, only one boy cites Gap as his favorite. The stores boys list among their favorites are Sears, Eddie Bauer, Ross Stores, Millers Outpost and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Parental guidance

Overwhelmingly, both gender groups shop with their mothers. Max, age 13, from Pennsylvania, is pragmatic about the issue, and says he shops with his mom rather than his friends because ‘we can’t drive.’ Many of the respondents say they will also bring along a friend or sibling when they shop with their mothers. Shopping with mom can be cool, as long as kids don’t have to do it alone.

What kids said:

‘I like it when stores are nice looking. They have to be playing cool music, otherwise I don’t enjoy myself while shopping. Salespeople have to be nice and nice looking.’ Lane, Texas, age 13

‘[I will shop at a store that has] cool effects and [where] the clothes are cool.’ Travis, Texas, age 12

‘[My favorite store is] Gap, because I like the style of clothes it sells.’ Joan, New York, age 12

‘Pacific Sunwear to me is a cool store because it has a sort of skater-punk style.’ Max, Pennsylvania, age 13

Style equals comfort

Style is a defining factor in kids’ lives today, but comfort is an important element of style for our respondents. Here are a few quotes that represent the fashions our Live Wire kids are following:

‘My style is simple. I don’t wear patterned stuff. . . . Maybe I’ll wear stripes, but not more than two colors at a time. I prefer solids so that I can create a look by combining colors. I like fitted styles, but not too tight.’ Jennifer, Massachusetts, age 15

‘I like comfortable clothes that don’t creep up on me.’ Bethany, Texas, age 12

‘I like surfing brands, big loose shirts, flannel shirts, plaids and jeans and corduroys.’ Tyler, Oklahoma, age 12

‘I like jeans and sweatshirts. . . . Stuff that is casual and not too dressed up.’ Patrick, Maryland, age 12

‘I like to wear corduroys and jeans and T-shirts or sweaters. I also like bell bottoms and ’70s-style clothes.’ Chelsea, Kentucky, age 13

‘Plain and simple, no patterns or weird stuff. Kind of dressier than some kids. [I] don’t care about brand names or sayings or [company logos], but I do sometimes like funny things.’ Angela, Maryland, age 13

Next month: Kid Think will report on the appeal of CD-ROMs to kids.

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