Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tween Queens ?!?!?

I was in NC visiting friends this past weekend and discovered this newstory, "Tween Queens," in their local paper, News Record. I am sharing it with you because, well, this sort of thing freaks me out as a new mother.

Retailers have long sought tweens' dollars in the Triad, which boasts brands including Limited Too, Claire's and, of course, the Disney Store. But the local tween market has exploded in recent months, judging from the recent renovation of some longtime stores and the opening of new names including Justice and Club Libby Lu.

And, sorry boys, but the emphasis here is clearly on girls.

Take Libby Lu, where Burlington resident Jennifer Moore took daughter Charlzton shopping on a recent Saturday.

The Chicago-based retailer, which opened its first Triad store at Four Seasons Town Centre last month, launched in 2000. Three years later, it was snapped up by Saks. By the end of this year, the chain, which reported $53 million in sales for 2006, will have 93 stores.

"The whole thing is about truly being a princess," said Branka Zivanovic, who refers to herself as the chain's "district diva." (Fanciful titles pop up across the company, where the head of human resources has been called a "prince of the people," said Nicole Moret, the "fairy godmarketer.")

Libby Lu carries clothing, cosmetics, stuffed Chihuahuas and bath products, but its focus is on makeovers and parties. For between $20 and $35, girls can swap their everyday duds to become DJs, divas, princesses and — best of all, if you ask the tweens — kiddie pop idol Hannah Montana.

Disney entertainment icons such as Montana and the cast of breakaway hit "High School Musical" and its recent sequel are dominating sales at tween stores and shaping the habits of shoppers like 9-year-old Jordan Wescott and her mother.

Missie Wescott brought her daughter and playmate Avery Church to the mall from Pleasant Garden last Saturday for makeovers. While an employee styled her hair, Jordan peered around the mirror and told her mother they needed to book a return appointment for a Montana makeover before the performer's November concert at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Mom concurred, laughing.

"As parents," she said, "we always try to do more for our kids than we had. So when this stuff comes out, we're just as bad as they are."

This last comment really disturbs me. Unfortunately, my daugther will grow up with less than what I had. But, if I were to make more money than my parents did, the last place I would lavish it on her is with baby makeovers.

I am overwhelmed by how how much retailers bombard young children with products that they just have to have. I am annoyed at the ridiculous gendering of this whole diva princess thing as well. In an age where women are achieving more than ever and putting the lie to centuries of patriarchal myth that women are passive, beautiful and frivolous, marketers want to sell this vapid image of femininity to 2-12 year olds. Can you believe how much money they make doing this?

I am shooting my television.