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Stores use lure of children's literature


By Lauren Beckham Falcone

Boston Herald
November 23, 2007

Since 1947, the holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street” has helped build brand awareness for Macy’s. What can other department stores do to appeal to kids - who in a few short years will have charge cards of their own?

Pen a children’s book.

Both Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue have introduced new holiday picture books that may make loyal consumers out of the kiddies. Neither department store appears within its own tales, but the cross promotion is dizzying.

Saks is the exclusive seller of “Snowpeople” (HarperCollins, $16.95), a 21-page picture book starring a bunch of snow folk who want to express their individuality through - wait for it - trendy clothes. The chain is also featuring the characters in its window displays, hand-painted ornament collection, greeting cards and more.

The Great Snowpeople Hunt - think of it as Where’s Waldo meets the Wicked Wealthy - challenges customers to count the hidden snowpeople in the Saks holiday catalog. Players who submit their guesses online or in-store are eligible to win a 21-day cruise to Antarctica.

Nordstrom’s “Once Upon a Holiday” (Chronicle Books, $16.95), which was written by Nordstrom copy editor Randy Schliep, features a little girl named Sophie, who teams up with a cow, an owl and the moon to save Christmas. The book is available at Nordstrom stores nationwide, and the art inspired the chain’s 2007 holiday decor.

Characters from the book will appear in Nordstrom store displays, catalogs, gift cards, holiday bags and on the Web site. In addition, the department store is selling a holiday music CD with “Once Upon a Holiday” art on the cover, as well as “Once Upon a Holiday”-inspired kids’ T-shirts and pajamas.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of department store operators peddling their own children’s books.

“What these stores are trying to do is create cradle-to-grave brand loyalty,” said Susan Linn, director of the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston.

“That’s why they’re starting with kids,” Linn said. “They’re also trying to get kids to nag their parents to go to these stores.”

Linn said parents should buy a children’s book because it offers a wonderful story or engaging characters.

“It’s just sad this kind of product placement is even extending to children’s books now,” she said.

Both chains will give back, however. Nordstrom will donate $10,000 to Friends of Libraries USA. Saks will give $2 from every copy of “Snowpeople” sold to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and $1 for every Great Snowpeople Hunt submission up to $50,000.

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