Will “Little Influencers” Spur Big Holiday Spending? Poll Says Kids Have High Expectations

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By a margin of 2 to 1, youths believe this year’s gift-giving will defy economic forecasts and be the same or better than last year’s, according to a poll released today by national youth-blogging site TweenTribune.com.

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The survey shows that the kids have a much rosier picture of the economy than their folks...

If kids’ expectations have any bearing on parents’ buying habits, it’s going to be a great Christmas for retailers. By a margin of 2 to 1, youths believe this year’s gift-giving will defy economic forecasts and be the same or better than last year’s, according to a poll released today by national youth-blogging site TweenTribune.com. Fourteen percent of the kids surveyed said they were expecting parents to spend “much more” than last year.

The big gifts driving expectations: electronics. Wiis, Xbox360s, iPods, laptops and cell phones were mentioned most by the 2,438 youths polled last week.

"I think my family will spend more money than last year because we always buy expensive electronics like the Wii,” wrote an 11-year-old girl from Lebanon, Ohio. “I asked for an iPod touch and also a laptop – both in a price range of $150 and $200.

”The poll showed that only 24% believed their family would spend less this year on gifts, travel, decorations and parties during the upcoming holidays. Some 48% said they would spend the same or more, and nearly one in five listed “don’t know” – perhaps a reflection of their own parents’ uncertainty about the economy.

“The survey shows that the kids have a much rosier picture of the economy than their folks,” said Kip Cassino, vice president for advertising research firm Borrell Associates in Williamsburg, Va., which helped formulate the survey. “If you look through other research on holiday shopping currently circulating, you see parents deciding on more practical gifts this year than last. I’m afraid more of them will be getting sweaters and socks instead of video games and laptops,” Cassino said.

The poll was taken by TweenTribune, a website used by teachers in 77,000 classrooms across the United States, instilling reading and writing skills by allowing students to post comments on news stories. Recent news articles about student uniforms attracted 5,465 comments, while an article on the new iPod attracted 5,633 comments.

The holiday-spending poll asked, “How much do you think your family will spend on Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza this year?” Forty-one percent of the respondents were boys, and 59% were girls. Girls were more optimistic about gift-getting than the boys: 51% said their parents would spend the same or more this year, compared with 44% of the boys.

Responses suggested that some youths who expected their parents to spend more this year believe that gift-giving isn’t related to affordability, but rather how much their parents loved them.
“My mom said I’m the best little girl in the world, and she’s going to buy me the whole world,” commented an 11-year-old girl in Orlando.

“Because they LOVE me,” wrote a 10-year-old boy from West Deptford, N.J., responding to why his parents would spend more this year.

The publisher of TweenTribune, Virginia-based entrepreneur Alan Jacobson, sees an important trend for retailers.

“The world has changed. Even the youngest children didn't mention ‘toys’ as the reason for spending more. Instead, they want laptops for schoolwork, cell phones to stay in touch with their friends, and game consoles for fun.”

“I don't want “kiddie” toys that are cheaper anymore,” said a 12-year-old in Bartlesville, OK.

Ten percent of the respondents said they expected their families to spend “much less” on the holidays this year. Their comments reflected what’s going on in households in these tough economic times.

Said one 12-year-old from Akron, Ohio, “My dad was unemployed for a year and he just got a job so now my parents can catch up on their bills and other payments. I think that's more important than buying me an iPad or an iPod touch.”

A 13-year-old from Marshville, N.C., wrote, “My daddy lost his old job that he got paid a lot at, and now he works for a company that pays less.”

TweenTribune and its sister site, TeenTribune, work through schoolteachers across the U.S. Registered students log onto the site and post comments on selected stories of the day, and teachers review the responses for approval before making them “live” for other students to see. The site reaches a lucrative segment of the population: youths age 5 to 18, who influence approximately $170 billion in annual spending by their parents. The sites also provide teachers with educator-related news and a forum for their opinions, on stories ranging from a teacher defending her body piercing to a teacher's suicide over low test scores.

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