Kodak, Minolta picture new kid appeal

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Eastman Kodak Co. and Minolta Corp. are focusing on kids.

This week, Kodak created a team to reach the largely untapped children's market and, with Tyco Toys, is set to roll out the delayed Kodak for Kids line in February.

Rival Minolta will launch a children's camera this fall, tied with a new animated series, "TerraTopia," set to launch on network or syndicated TV.

YOUTH INITIATIVE IMPORTANT

"People thought this is an important initiative for our company," said Kathleen Thomas, manager of youth and consumer imaging at Kodak. "We're looking at...options and putting greater emphasis on the youth market."

Kodak, which signed a licensing agreement with Tyco last April, had hoped to introduce its ambitious Kodak for Kids line last fall but had production problems.

Products include a 110-mm camera, to retail for $25; a microscope and a videoscope, both for $30; and a flexible flashlight, for $8. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, will handle promotion later this year.

Minolta will spend $1 million via Lois USA to launch its camera, priced under $50--the high end among children's cameras.

"It's a trend to brand them at a young age," said Gary Jacobson, a toy analyst at Banker's Trust.

Ms. Thomas said that 22.5 million U.S. kids ages 6 to 11 have $8 billion in annual spending power. Still, there are few estimates to the size of the youth camera market, though one manufacturer offered a guess in the $50 million to $75 million range.

FEW COMPANIES HAVE ENTRIES

While many film and camera manufacturers acknowledge their products appeal to children, few other major companies have offerings. Kodak and Minolta will join licensed lines from Mattel's Barbie, Fisher-Price and Binney & Smith's Crayola, none getting advertising support.

Kalimar, a camera maker that licensed Barbie cameras, claims the first permanent kid's camera line, introduced in mid-1993, said President Larry Lipsitz. While sales for the $6 to $17 line were in the $10 million range for 1995, it represented a 33% increase, he said.

Copyright January 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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