childhood obesity and a new store in depot town

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.)

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  1. brian r
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Real Kidz is the name of the store. Merrill Guerra is the owner.

    You should stop by and introduce yourself. She seems like a very nice woman.

  2. mark
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure she’s nice, and I hope I didn’t come across as overly negative in the post. That wasn’t my intention. Another clothing store is a good thing for Ypsi to have, and I wish her luck with it.

  3. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I have it on good authority (from somone in the solution industry), that many of the overweight kids parents are slim, fit-crazed workaholics who, as Mark suspected, don’t have/make time to fix their kids healthy meals or teach them to ride a bike.

    The kids don’t get loving spooned meals or attention, and snack on hot-pocket media all night.

    At least their parents will be able to afford to give them a high-priced education, which equals a high-priced job, which is all anyone should really aspire to in this world, even if the desks are a little snug.

  4. Pete
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    We could change the city’s name to Fat City and cater to the extra large? The signs could say, “Welcome to Fat City, Where the Livin’ is Extra Large”. Water Street could be a giant, 20 acre buffet!

  5. UBU
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Guess you’ll have to make those little miss Ypsipanties in extra extra large…

  6. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Fat City, yes. We can start with the Heritage Festival. Let’s encourage the overweight to come to the festival and wear lycra stretch pants, hot pants, super tight jeans, all with exposed muffin tops and but cracks. I volunteer.

  7. mark
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I prefer “Fatville.” We could public drinking fountains that dispense gravy.

  8. mark
    Posted August 1, 2007 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    “Fatville. You’ll Love it So Much, Your Heart Will Explode.”

  9. It's Skinner Again
    Posted August 2, 2007 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    It’s time for that hot “Ypsilardi” t-shirt!

  10. Posted August 2, 2007 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I’m your biggest fan in London, UK, I’ve read all your zines and comics, I recommend you to friends, I even posted a link to this site in a recent interview I did because I love what you do so much and I wanted others to know it too but, oh dear, this post really spoils it.

    Here you are, another concerned citizen handwringing in disbelief at the GlobalObesityEpidemicTM. Yawn. What I love about you is your lawless brain, your beautiful misfit take on things, so why this tired cliché response to the fatties? I’m surprised you weren’t able to come up with something a bit more fresh and original, disappointed that you’ve bought into the mythology without question, and depressed by the schmuck replies to it too. I thought you were all cooler than that.

    One poster joked that maybe you should run your Ypsipanties in XXL. That’s my size. If you made ’em, I would surely buy ’em, and I’d be proud to parade them around my neck of the woods too. What a shame that’s not going to happen. Maybe you are a Narrow Fuck after all, as The Chubsters would say.

  11. Posted August 2, 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    You know how Clementine has that sit-n-spin? Funiture and toys for fat kids with fat butts?

  12. It's Skinner Again
    Posted August 2, 2007 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Charlotte — Actually, my post was just for the sake of wringing more wordplay out of Ypsilanti, as is customary here. My true feelings are revealed in the latest “Let’s Ask Skinner,” in “Crimewave”:

    Q: Do you think my ass looks big in this?
    A: Oo la la.

    Anyway, kisses all around!

  13. mark
    Posted August 5, 2007 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Charlotte, thanks for taking the time to write. I’m not sure how to respond. My post wasn’t meant as an attack against those who are large. I think fat people have just as much of a right as anyone else to be here on earth. With that said, however, obesity does concern me, especially in kids. I have a feeling that, no matter what I say, you’re going to be pissed, so I’m not going to go on and on about it. I do think, however, that the current trend toward obesity is a sign of something not being right in modern life. For what it’s worth, I think the same thing about anxiety and depression, which are two things that I deal with personally. We’ve all got our problems. The world is fucked. Etc.

  14. Posted August 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Well, how to begin? I am the gal who’s starting the clothing company for plus-sized kids which will be headquartered in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town. I appreciate your comments and thoughts and would like to add some of my own to the discussion. First of all I am providing clothing to a neglected segment of the population who by their nature are hurt the most by not being able to find and try on clothing that fits or looks good on them. Second and probably more important, I’m building a parent network which will provide a place for parents to go to find support and ideas on how to incorporate healthy choices into their busy families lives. I’m working on bringing in a range of expert contributors such as child psychologists, nutritionists, food coaches, pediatricians, and more to ensure that there is a solid foundation of advice. I’ll also provide a forum for parents to share their joys, frustrations and good finds. In the end my company is about so much more than clothing large kids. It’s about helping those kids, their parents and society at large accept them for who they are, positives and negatives, and help them to strive to be the healthiest and happiest people they can be. I encourage anyone who’s interested in finding out more to stop by during the Heritage Festival. My blog which talks more about me and why I’m starting this business will launch on Friday and we’ll have clothing ready in October for purchase.

  15. h.d.
    Posted August 16, 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    For what it is worth, I am local and over-weight and have not found this post insulting…

    The government’s idea of ‘ideal’ weight is unrealistic- people do come in all shapes and sizes. And I am happy to be fat and I have a realistic body image. I like who I am. That doesn’t mean I want (or will facilitate through laziness etc.) my kids to be fat. Chubby people need clothes too, but let’s look at the big picture of this situation.

    Mark is right, we need to be real with ourselves- there is something wrong with modern life that so many people are overweight. Especially children, they should be active and carefree- they should not be ridiculed, they need serious help. I was an active kid, I got chubby later. How hard will life be if you start out that way? One can extrapolate more health problems etc-?

    What has changed- (this is rhetorical- we can all name like a hundred things)- I feel like that is the point of this thread. What can we as a community do to help this situation- well, we had the Ypsilanti Fitness thing in the spring, the community garden. We also have tons of great parks. I think as a community, Ypsilanti does a decent job with its youth. I wonder what the local weight statistics are. Does anyone know???

  16. Silky
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Real Kidz is going out of business.

  17. T Timmons
    Posted February 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I never really got their business model. It would be one thing if existing clothing companies weren’t making clothes for big kids, but every indication is that they are. Our entire population is growing larger, and companies keep adapting. It’s not like we’ve got packs of fat naked kids roaming around. They’re finding jeans.

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