June 18, 2008

Sneaker Companies Target Toddler Market

Athletic shoe companies are targeting very young pre-athletes as a ready supply of U.S. customers with fast-growing feet, industry analysts said.

New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. is gearing up for a marketing blitz aimed at infants and toddlers expected to yield revenues of $10 million by 2010, The Boston Globe reported Wednesday.

The company has television celebrities Elmo, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch to help push its new Sesame Street collection, which debuts next month, the newspaper said.

Reebok International has already turned to the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man to boost sales to youngsters, the Globe reported.

Shoe companies are targeting the very young to help establish customer loyalty and make up for flagging sales in sneakers for teens, a cornerstone of the market.

Sales for the under three-year old crowd have risen 34 percent to $1.35 billion in 2007, research firm NPD Group said. Some, however, object to marketing that targets preschoolers.

Pulling young children into the 'must have' shoe market is one more way to turn tykes into hyper-consumers, creating an entirely new generation of overspenders, said Lisa Wise, executive director of the Center for a New American Dream.