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Teens are taking on more household responsibilities, giving them more influence than ever over a wide range of buying decisions.

In an average month, 27% of teen-agers did major food shopping, according to Simmons Market Research Bureau's teen-age research study.

"More and more we are seeing teens out in the supermarkets, doing shopping for the family. In the health and beauty aids category, teens are the brand decision-makers," said Joan Chiaramonte, senior VP-syndicated studies at Simmons, New York.

According to the study, teens spend an average of $52 a week on groceries for themselves, with 20% shopping at specialty food stores and 48% at convenience stores.

With more dual-income families and non-traditional households, teens' responsibilities have increased, Ms. Chiaramonte said. The U.S. Census Bureau said that in 1991, half of the nation's children were living in a situation other than the "traditional nuclear family."

Teen-agers carry tremendous marketing clout, spending about $95 billion a year.

According to the Simmons study, teens attend 300 million movies, rent more than 250 million videos and purchase 47 million game discs and cartridges a year.

The teen market is approximately 30 million strong with a third employed-55% of those 16 and older earn $75 or more a week.

The in-home interviews with more than 2,800 12-to-19-year-olds were conducted nationally from February to May, showing that this age group shops for items such as shoes, jeans and groceries.

According to the survey, teens spent about $95 on shoes and $62 on jeans a year. Over the last three months, 67% shopped in some type of department, discount or clothing store.

For marketers, it is important to realize that most trends start with teen-agers and branch out, said Ms. Chiaramonte. For example, the popularity of hiking boots and clothing was started in the teen market. Now, it has spread to adults and even children.

Marketers often have many misconceptions of teens' attitudes and feelings. Contrary to popular belief, "teens are optimistic and well-educated buyers," Ms. Chiaramonte said.

Thirty-three percent said they are careful how they spend money and 28% said they look for the lowest price possible. However, 25% of teens said they buy on the spur of the moment.

Teens still remain brand-loyal. Twenty percent always look for the marketer's name and 30% stick with the brand they like. Only 13% are the first to try a new product.

Advertising is still looked upon as favorable, with 32% saying ads help them know what is available. Of those surveyed, 24% believe advertising should be entertaining while only 15% believed ads give a true picture of products.

Girls enjoy shopping more than boys, 34% and 16%, respectively. Also, 60% of girls enjoy shopping for clothes while only 29% of boys feel the same.

Ms. Chiaramonte's advice to marketers that want to target teens is to get to know that consumer base. "Talk to teens-they are vocal consumers who will make their opinion known and enjoy taking part in studies."

Leah Rickard coordinates Research News.

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