Those Over-Athletic Kids, Our Upscale Migration, The Retiring Types, Etc.

Tired of worrying that today’s kids get too little exercise? Worry instead about an epidemic of injuries among kids who get too much. An article this month in U.S. News & World Report finds year-round training “with no letup” has become the norm for millions of kids who play on school or recreation-league teams. In addition to fractured bones and cracked skulls, doctors now see increasing numbers of kids with “overuse injuries”—stress fractures, tendinitis, sore heels and so on. Part of the trouble is that kids are specializing in a single sport, which means particular body parts are subjected toendless amounts of stress. The article notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned against too-early specialization for just that reason. Some leagues and teams have enlisted certified trainers to help coaches know when enough is enough. Still, we’re likely to see growing numbers of once-athletic kids who burn out on sports by the time they reached their early teens.

If department-store customers didn’t look and smell 1.8 percent better in 2001 than in 2000, they weren’t getting their money’s worth. Data from NPD BeautyTrends pegs that figure as the size of increase in department-store sales of fragrances, makeup and skin-care products. New products accounted for 10 percent of women’s-fragrance sales and 6 percent of men’s sales. New “prestige” makeup products rang up 7 percent of that category’s sales. In skin care, new goods yielded 9 percent of sales. For those of you oblivious to such conflicts, the report notes there was a “mascara war” in 2001. We can only hope cooler heads prevail in 2002.

Despite having bought everything in sight during the past decade, Americans aren’t ready for the simple life. An article in The Wall Street Journal cites instances in which consumers en masse shun mid-market goods in favor of high-end alternatives, and it draws this conclusion: “Millions of Americans who once made up the vast middle of the nation’s$7 trillion consumer market are migrating toward premium and luxury goods.” The article detects this happening in categories as diverse as consumer electronics, cars, wine and washing machines. Among the factors in this “great migration upscale” is a shift in consumer aspirations. “For decades, many Americans were proud just to belong to the middle class. Now, a growing number of them regard the middle class as a starting point, not a goal.” We can count on plenty of advertisers to help this process along.

Honors this week for Best Use of a Rodent in a Home-Decor Ad go to Orian Rugs and agency Erwin-Penland of Greenville, S.C. If mice were as cute in real life as they are in ads, cartoons and children’s books, the world would be a more pleasant place.

Are Americans ready to take vacation advice from a comedian brandishing a Paul Bunyan doll? Minnesota’s Office of Tourism hopes so as it launches a TV campaign featuring Craig Kilborn. In a spot set in Los Angeles, where he now lives, Kilborn shows us a room he’s decorated as “kind of a shrine to my home state, Minnesota.” The holiest of holies in this shrine is a model of one of the state’s 10,000 lakes—Lake No. 10,000, as it happens. To stress what a great vacation spot Minnesota is, Kilborn shows us his doll of “the ruler of the north woods, Mr. Paul Bunyan,” taking a canoe ride on the lake, along with another doll to which Kilborn has affixed a photo of his own face. (Alas, the canoe capsizes.) If this doesn’t make you want to take a Minnesota vacation, what would? Minneapolis-based Colle + McVoy created the offbeat campaign.

Don’t count on big companies to drag the tech sector out of recession. A study by Forrester Research predicts e-business technology budgets at big corporations (i.e., the “Global 3,500”) will drop by an average of 14 percent in 2002 vs. 2001. Companies will be predisposed to “make do with what they have before buying more.” The report also forecasts that 23 percent fewer companies “will consider purchasing the nuts and bolts of server, network and storage hardware.”

Automakers have been turning the family car into an away-from-home entertainment center, starting with TVs and VCRs and going on from there. Still, a poll by Riter Research for Best Western International (as summed up by the WorldOpinion Web site) finds the car radio remains the most popular entertainment for kids when the family is on the road. Eating ranks second, followed by listening to their own CDs, tapes or MP3s; playing travel games and portable electronic games; reading books; bringing a friend along; listening to audio books or tapes; and watching movies.

If nobody’s murdered you by the time you reach middle age, odds are you’ll avoid that fate altogether. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics puts homicide among the 10 leading causes of death for women age 1 to 45 and men 1-55. But then it drops out of the top 10, displaced by the likes of Alzheimer’s, nephritis and septicemia.

Consumers may be emboldened by signs of economic recovery, but business executives remain cautious (not to say timid). A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers of fast-growing companies finds their planned spending for 2002 “lags considerably behind expected revenue growth.” In light of “unsettled world events and economic volatility,” the companies’ CEOs will believe the revenue growth when they see it. Until then, they don’t want to lock themselves into larger fiscal budgets. While expecting average revenue rises of 14.8 percent, they plan a modest 5.7 percent increase in spending.

Having become resigned to so many other things, baby boomers are now becoming resigned to the fact they won’t retire early. The older boomers, after all, already missed their chance to quit before age 50. A study by Fortune Personnel Consultants finds just 26 percent of post-50 boomers still hope they’ll retire “early.” Among workers under 35, 41 percent believe they’ll manage to call it quits somewhere between age 50 and 59. The same percentage of workers age 35-49 cling to that hope. Nonetheless, 68 percent of the poll’s respondents said they’re likely to continue working in some way even after they’ve formally retired.

The virile young lads of Meppen, Illinois, may feel slighted by it. But area residents who are in the market for a healthy Labrador or golden retriever will appreciate an ad for a local breeder of such creatures. Rodgers Townsend of St. Louis created the piece.

Haven’t been to the movies lately? You’re not alone. In a Gallup poll, 33 percent of adults said they hadn’t gone to one in the past

12 months. Taking up the slack, 29 percent had gone to five or more in that period.