Cataloger, Co-op Program Vie for Slice of the Teen Market

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Intensity is picking up in the hot teen market this season as new entrants and veterans compete for a market credited with having well over $100 billion in purchasing power.


As Seventeen magazine prepares to launch a co-op program that distributes samples directly to high school girls, the newest teen catalog, Brat, has just landed in their mailboxes. The catalog, aimed at girls ages 10 to 24, is the latest in a string of catalogs for teens and young adults launched in the past year, including Just Nikki, Wet Seal and thehut.com. More than 500,000 copies of Brat were mailed in late August.


Although interest in the teen market has grown in recent years, there's room for more, said Michael Wood, director of syndicated research at Teenage Research Unlimited, Northbrook, IL. Based on interviews with 2,000 teens twice a year as part of its Teenage Marketing and Lifestyle Study, the company estimates that young adults between the ages of 12 and 19 spent $122 billion in 1997 and will spend $144 billion this year. The number of teens in the United States -- close to 31 million -- has increased since 1992 and is expected to continue growing until 2010, Wood said.


"The fact that the number of teens has been growing and that they're spending a lot of money has been driving the interest in this market," he said, "and the interest hasn't yet peaked."


The 52-page inaugural issue of Brat was sent to a compiled list that included subscribers to magazines such as Seventeen and YM, as well as shoppers of several teen catalogs.


"I had retail experience in the market and decided you could go national much quicker with catalogs than with retail stores," said Brat's creative director/founder Mike Burwasser, who also runs teen store Krush Groove in Carle Place, NY.


Thanks to mention of a plaid messenger bag in the August issue of YM, the Queens-based catalog company was receiving calls before Brat even went out. The startup, backed by licensing company Bowe Industries, also of Queens, started receiving a few hundred calls a day right after its drop, Burwasser said.


The catalog, whose name he insists was chosen after whittling down a list, includes clothing, room decorations, cosmetics, jewelry and other accessories from teen brands such as Buggirl, Auraze, Geek Boutique, Snug, Golf Punk Girl, Hard Candy and Manic Panic. The merchandise varies and could fit with many looks -- skate, preppy, sporty and glam, Burwasser said.


"I wanted to appeal to all girls in that age group, and they all have different looks," he said.


Marketing for the catalog includes an ad in the October issue of Seventeen, which also will have a feature article on the company. A future issue of Seventeen will include a contest -- teased on the front cover -- that gives readers a chance to win a Brat shopping spree.


The company already has shot its fall catalog, due out in October, and plans six to eight mailings for 1999.


While Brat may be one of the newest players in the market, Seventeen -- the leading magazine for the age group with a circulation of 2.5 million -- this week announced it is stepping up is marketing efforts. The magazine will partner with Cover Concepts, one of its sister companies under the umbrella of Primedia Inc., to offer a new co-op sampling pack to teens called Seventeenpak.


"They are giving their brand name in return for the exposure," said Geoffrey Kanter, CEO of Cover Concepts, in explaining its partnership with Seventeen. Indeed, it's the magazine's brand that Kanter expects to make the program stand out.


"There are other programs to reach kids in schools, but the other programs aren't branded with Seventeen. It's the brand association that provides added value to the sponsors," he said.


For Seventeen, the targeted exposure, fits well with the magazine.


"This is our audience, so its a great opportunity for us to access teens where they are hanging out," said Seventeen associate publisher Ellen Abramowitz.


Though Cover Concepts has been targeting students for years through ads on book covers and self-product sampling, this is its first co-op and it results from its acquisition by Primedia last year.


The pack that holds the samples is a reusable cosmetic bag with a Seventeen logo on it. A 16-page digest version of Seventeen will be included with the samples. So far, Kimberly Clark, Playtex, SC Johnson and Helene Curtis have signed on to include samples, and Midol will include a coupon. The sponsors will have category exclusivity and will receive a four-color ad in the digest version of the magazine as part of the program.


The initial launch in October will hit 1 million high school-age girls in the top 50 markets in the country. Sponsors had the option of narrowing their participation by market size and region, though all sponsors in the initial pack chose total participation.


"A lot of these companies have already been targeting teens. Many buyers are kids and teens," said Melissa Ranquist Donath, national sales manager at Cover Concepts. "More and more marketers are targeting this age group, and this gives them the opportunity to reach the target audience in a clutter-free environment."


Starting next year, the program is expected to grow to 2 million packs, distributed in April and October. The distribution will include junior high school girls as well as high school girls. While the initial pack contains health and beauty items, future packs are expected to include samples from food and beverage companies.


The distribution will be audited by Audit Bureau of Circulation, and results will be studies by Burke Market Research, which will conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis of the pack's effectiveness by surveying girls in malls.


Through alliances with schools that have agreed to participate in its programs, Cover Concepts claims to reach 30 million students nationwide, representing 50 percent of school children between the ages of 6 and 18.


Within that market, the company reaches 9.8 million high school students, representing 68 percent of that group, and 6.4 million junior high school students, representing 66 percent of that segment. Separately, the company reaches 2 million preschoolers.

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