- Research on preteens has covered various intervals between ages 7 and 14 years. I’ll discuss findings for the range 10 to 12 years. Still, these findings are broad generalizations.
- Preteens, more than younger children, plan for the future. Their goals take account of what they see as realistic limitations, so preteens are not as careless as teens. Related to this, preteens are more likely than teens to look to adults as role models. This is true even though the preteen may prefer to associate with age peers than with the immediate family. This means that preteens are still listening carefully to the advice of adult salespeople, even if they argue with the advice.
- A strong sense of right and wrong develops. Younger children are highly concerned with what’s fair, but this applies mostly to taking your turn on the swings. Preteens are more likely to get outraged by product return policies they don’t understand.
- Don’t treat preteen shoppers like young children, even if the preteen has not yet started the adolescent growth spurt. The sophistication of their tastes may surprise retailers who don’t recall their own preteen development. The USA Today article references an 11 year old who, commenting on a Hyatt Hotels menu, said she prefers curried shrimp lettuce wraps over cheeseburgers.
- Sensitivity to physical appearance increases, more so among girls than among boys. Along with this is a desire for privacy. In stores, encourage parents to allow their preteens to try on clothes alone if the fitting room is secure and if the child seems to be expressing this preference. The preteen will be grateful, and gratitude leads to store loyalty. Whereas teens can be happy trying on clothes with a few friends, preteens are less likely to be comfortable with this.
- Developmental psychologists note a tendency of preteens to be forgetful. In spite of looking to the future, and maybe because they feel overwhelmed looking toward their future, their organizational skills can be less than that seen when they were younger. As a retailer, write down any important commitments the preteen has made, give them a copy, and keep a copy. Also be sure the adults know what’s been agreed to.
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