Treat Kids as Collectors

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BruceBioHiRes (3) Bruce D. Sanders, Ph.D. is a consumer/organizational psychologist with a special interest in how retailers and other providers of products and services can make and save more money. The key is putting to use what we've discovered about the ways in which our customers, clients, and prospects find value in what we offer. Bruce’s latest book is “Retailer’s Edge: Boost Profits Using Shopper Psychology” (2010). You can contact Bruce at or via his RIMtailing blog (, a daily source of research-based tactics to get your Retailing In Motion.

Vinylcase-catalog Children love to collect things—ranging from dolls to sports cards to rocks. Researchers at University of Nebraska-Lincoln identified how the motivations for collecting develop as the child gets older. Here’s an updated version of those research findings:

  • Little consumers ages 3 to 6 like to classify products, such as by size, color, or shape. Set off purchase demand by making it extremely easy for the young child to figure out how the product is different from what they already own or have access to.
  • Boys and girls from ages 5 to 7 tend to aim for quantity. The more you have, the better, and there is a competition with other children their age. Merchandising collectibles for the first grader means displaying all the items in a set together—such as on adjacent shelves or at adjacent positions on the ecommerce site. This activates an inborn urge to have the complete set. Because the emphasis is on quantity, the parents and grandparents doing the purchasing often will be happiest with the retailer when the items are small and inexpensive. The exceptions to this occur when the adult wants the child to show off to others. Then a more visible item size and a premium item price can actually make the product more attractive to the purchaser for the 5 to 7 year old.
  • For the 7 to 11 year old, a purchase trigger is seeing value for money. With product comparisons in advertising and store signage, make the features or benefits list visibly longer for more expensive items than for the less costly ones.
  • As children approach age 11, they’ll tend to assemble their collections for more social reasons rather than for mere quantity. This happens at earlier ages for girls than for boys. These children enjoy knowing what others have, are open to trading items, want to fill in their collections with items others don’t have, and are aware items in a collection differ in value. Merchandise using items that have distinguishable functions. Each alternative can do something different. This one jumps, and that one talks. Show those distinctive capabilities in ads and store signage. Keep the adult purchasers happy by having a range of price points to match the sophistication of capabilities.
  • The urge to collect continues on into adulthood with refinements. For instance, children ages 12 to 16 will be looking for evidence they can use to convince their parents and themselves to make the purchase, such as information about return/exchange policies if they regret the purchase later.
  • Brand awareness activates a drive to collect. A large percentage of children’s purchase desires include brand name. Research studies have estimates of that percentage ranging from 50% to 90%. And those research studies find that the degree of brand awareness grows as the child gets older. Brand awareness among children includes not just product brand, but also store name as a brand. Children come to favor shopping for additions to their collections at certain stores.



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