I heard a rumor that a clothing store for overweight children was going to be opening in Depot Town soon. I’d never hear of such a thing, so I got online and started searching around. It just so happens that “Entrepreneur” magazine has something relevant in this month’s issue. Here’s a clip:
…While kids hold the key to our future, they also control their parents’ purse strings. American families spend approximately $115.6 billion a year on their children for food, clothing, personal-care items, entertainment and reading materials, according to a 2006 report by Packaged Facts. This figure is expected to increase to $143 billion by 2010. Meanwhile, the buying power of kids themselves now tops $18 billion. Kids may be small in size, but spending by them, around them and for them represents a powerful market opportunity too big to be ignored…
Some of those “powerful market opportunities” apparently revolve around obesity. Here’s a clip from further along in the same article:
…Childhood obesity first started making headlines years ago, but the startling reality of the poor health of today’s youth is still top of mind for most parents. And it should be: Approximately 30.3 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are overweight, and 15.3 percent are obese, according to the American Obesity Association, an organization focused on changing public policy and perceptions about obesity. “In the kids’ market over the past three or four years, there has been a tremendous outpouring of concern about childhood obesity from government agencies and parental groups,” says Bob Brown, co-author of the Packaged Facts report. “This huge public health problem has actually created opportunities for [entrepreneurs]“…
Did you hear that? Childhood obesity has created “opportunities” to make money!
“There’s gold ‘n them thar fat kids, people!”
In the defense of “Entrepreneur” magazine, they don’t launch right from that into “opportunities” that involve keeping kids fat. They don’t say, for instance, “invest in corn syrup and XXL diapers.” The specific “opportunity” they delve into is the children’s exercise market. It seems as though gyms geared toward obese children, and personal trainers that deal exclusively with the happy-meal set, are seeing a great deal of success. I suspect somewhere, however, people are salivating over the prospect of not-so-noble opportunities. [Hmmmm... I wonder if anyone's thought to open a chain of dialysis centers that caters specifically to kids... It couldn't cost that much to license a certain heavy-set, curly-tailed cartoon character, could it?]
I didn’t dig too deeply, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that there weren’t any franchise opportunities geared directly toward clothing fat kids, at least that I could find. I don’t object to fat kids being clothed, mind you. (I prefer it, actually.) I just find the idea offensive that someone would build a business model on it, and profit from it. It seems to be in bad taste. I suppose peddling clothes to extra-large children isn’t as bad as selling beer, cigarettes, happy meals or porn though. And I do recognize that buying clothes for obese children must be difficult. So, I’m not opposed to stores catering to the trend. The whole thing just leaves me feeling kind of icky.
And it’s not, for the most part, the fault of the kids. They’ve got the cards stacked against them. They, to a large degree, don’t have parents at home, cooking nutritious meals. Both parents, most likely, are working, and the kids are forced to grab food where they can get it (cheap). And it doesn’t help that they’re subjected to insidious and omni-present fast food marketing every minute of their short lives.
I don’t know the point of this post. It’s certainly not to say that people shouldn’t support the new business in Depot Town. And I don’t want to demonize fat kids. (I, after all, was one.) Maybe I’m just angry with myself for sitting here tonight, thinking about the “great market opportunity” that might exist in clothing them. Maybe posting this tonight is my way of ensuring that I don’t start working on a business plan for a new franchise. At any rate, if the rumor is true, and if a “plus sized” kids store is opening in Depot town, I wish them luck. Like it or not, it’s a niche that most likely needs filling in Michigan.
(note: It also occurred to me that this is probably the best news that Shannon Gordon, the proprietor of Gordon’s Five and Dime in Depot Town, could have ever wished for. It’s got to be a candy-sellers wet dream. Hopefully the rumor wasn’t started just to get his hopes up only to be dashed.)