Made a Good Back-to-School Shopping “Haul?”

I’m guessing junior high students are not following this blog with ‘bated breath, so this post is directed at their parents.

Kitsap kids prove me wrong, and send me a link to your back-to-school shopping “haul” videos.

Yes, that time-honored tradition, comparing what-cha-got for that all important first day of school has migrated to the Internet, where youngsters — predominantly girls in late elementary to early high school — show off their purchases (aka purchases made with their parents’ money, typically).

Here’s an example:

I remember twirling the telephone chord, while chatting with my best friend Susan Grieco about the cute mini-skirt I talked my mother into buying for me in eighth grade. This is kind of the same idea, only in this case, ifshionista101 has an audience of 3,587 to-date.

Here’s a another girl who assured herself of extra attention by throwing Hollister, Abercrombie and American Eagle into her video title. She has more than 19,000 video views so far.

These girls are not alone. More than 150,000 such user-generated videos have been posted to YouTube, and retailers have taken note, integrating the concept into their marketing strategies. According to an article in USA Today, JC Penney, for example, offered gift cards worth $250 to $1,000 to six girls whose haul videos have gotten a high number of hits for mention of merchandise from the store. Some were given free transportation and lodging to shop near J.C. Penney’s home in Plano, Texas, the article says.

“It’s one of the most innovative things we’re doing this fall,” says Mike Boylson, JC Penney’s chief marketing officer. “All of these haulers have followers and friends. That’s how you start the ball rolling.”

The company has created a website for haul videos, jcp.com/teen.

Federal Trade Commissioner regulations require the makers of the videos to disclose if they’ve received compensation from the stores, but store officials have encouraged them to be honest on their opinions of the clothes. And generally, they are.

Forever 21 and American Eagle also are among stores tapping into the haul phenomenon, another online article says.

As a parent, I have mixed feelings about the videos. On one level, the girls themselves are endearing for their directness and lack of Madison Avenue effects. They remind me of myself and Susan Grieco, except with trendier clothes.

On another level it seems a little crass and commercial. I don’t know what is more disturbing, the fact that tens of thousands of girls have seen fit to dedicate their video production skills to clothing, or the fact that manufacturers are capitalizing on it.

Then again, obsessing about fashion is what young girls do (the great majority go on to have productive, substantive lives), and capitalizing on that obsession is what manufacturers do. Only in this case the consumer is the messenger. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I’d really like to hear from anyone on the Kitsap Peninsula who’s made a haul video. What response have you gotten. If you made it some time ago, do you look back at what you bought and say, “That was so yesterday!”?

Oh, and let me know when I can “haul” my mini-skirt out of the closet again.

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