BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Parents may cringe as they anticipate the
battles that are looming as the back-to-school shopping season
arrives. Yet they can weather the pleas for $150 sneakers and $200
jackets by taking charge and teaching their children to be educated
shoppers, a University at Buffalo marketing professor advises.
"Children are influenced by advertising and peer-group
pressure," says Arun Jain, chair of the Department of Marketing and
Samuel P. Capen professor of marketing research at UB. "They must
be taught to ignore brand names and look at the characteristics of
a product that meets their needs at the best possible price.
"This means sitting down as a family, figuring out how much
money there is to spend and exactly what items are needed," Jain
says. "Once these decisions have been made, brand names become
Parents who give in and buy their children those $150 sneakers
are spoiling them and "not preparing them to make smart shopping
choices as they get older," he notes.
And those parents who pay part of the cost of the sneakers --
with the kids paying the rest -- are discouraging their children
While this approach may encourage children to go out and work to
get items they want, they may be working -- instead of studying --
to buy expensive items that they really don't need, he adds.
"This is teaching them the wrong values," Jain says. "They have
no notion about where they should be spending their money."
He says consumer magazines directed at children, such as
Zillions, help them to become smart shoppers. These magazines,
whose product testing is done by children, show kids how to manage
a budget and ignore advertisers, he says, adding that they can
become an important part of a long-term strategy by parents to help
their children become better-educated consumers.