From mischievous Minions to the more obscure taco cat, all kinds of characters will appear on children’s T-shirts and backpacks as they head back to school.
Normally, it’s the younger kids who insist on superheroes and other TV and movie characters on their clothing. But in a twist, some parents are also getting in on the action as the Star Wars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles they grew up with are popular once again.
Minions won the popularity contest this year.
These little yellow overall-clad creatures with their own movie are appearing on everything from T-shirts to a digital watch that lights up and emits a Minion laugh when kids press it.
A third of parents surveyed by RetailMeNot Inc. said their children would want Minion-themed products.
Taco cat didn’t even make the top 10. For the record, taco cat appears to be an Internet meme that has morphed into a joke among grade-schoolers, according to a friendly Target employee with kids.
“What’s taco cat spelled backwards? Taco cat.”
Target now sells a boys tank top with cats that have tacos for bodies and what looks like “purritos,” cats with burritos as bodies.
Believe it or not, there’s a little psychology behind kids’ drive to wear things like the taco cat or Minions.
Martin Oftedal, senior manager of Macy’s by Appointment at Fashion Fair mall and dad of a 6-year-old, had this to say: “Kids like to develop their own style and taste and what they wear allows them to make a statement about who they are and what interests them.”
“Letting them choose their own clothes really allows the morning to go much smoother when going to school,” he says.
Mom Erin Capuchino of Oakhurst says her two girls didn’t wear a lot of characters when they were little, but “the boy, on the other hand, is all superheroes and ‘Planes,’” she says. “He wants anything ‘Avengers.’ He loves Hulk ‘smash’ T-shirts.”
His dad is a wildland firefighter, so the 2-year-old loves anything related to the “Planes: Fire & Rescue” Disney movie that came out last year, Capuchino says. And he frequently runs around demonstrating his light-up Avengers sandals and pointing them out to people.
The parents think it’s fun to see them wearing the stuff that they were wearing that age.
Kristin Cook, BensBargains.com
And, of course, anything “Frozen” related is still popular, note Target managers and Kristin Cook, managing editor for online deal site BenBargains.com. Even though the movie came out two years ago, “Frozen 2” is in the works. It won’t come out until 2018, leaving plenty of time for merchandisers to fill the gap.
“I don’t think that one’s going to die down anytime soon,” she says.
The passion for favorite characters isn’t limited to little ones. Adults — parents in their 20s and 30s and up — share some of the same interests as their kids lately.
“Batman is classic,” Cook says. “We’re seeing a lot of this old stuff coming back as they’re rebooting franchises.
The “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” movie comes out next year. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the dinosaurs of “Jurassic Park” from the 1980s and 1990s are back with new movies. And the Star Wars series that launched in 1977 will release “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” later this year.
In the Capuchino household in Oakhurst, mom, dad and their 11-year-old daughter are all fans of Star Wars — with daughter eying mom’s Star Wars’ T-shirt.
“It was actually my T-shirt that she wants to steal from me,” Erin Capuchino says. “My husband bought the kids a shih tzu (dog) because they look like Ewoks. ...We love our Star Wars.”
Spending on clothes and other back-to-school shopping is actually down this year, with the average family spending about 6% less than last year on kindergarten through grade 12 shopping.
But that doesn’t stop families from shopping. They’re just seeking out better deals. Experts have some tips for back-to-school shoppers on budget.
- If there’s a character your kid just has to have, get it now. You risk it selling out if you wait for sales.
- Wait to shop if you’re on a tight budget. The really good sales start about the second week of September when stores are clearing out their back-to-school items, says Cook of Ben’s Bargains.
- Big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target don’t always have the best deals on backpacks, she says. Check out other retailers, including Kohl’s, Children’s Place and Amazon.com.
- When it comes to Walmart, sometimes prices online at Walmart.com are cheaper than at the Walmart store itself. Customers can order supplies online and pick them up in the store for free, Cook notes.
- At Target, the coupons.target.com website has printable coupons for school supplies ($2 off a $10 purchase of its store brand) and the free Target Cartwheel app has discounts of up to 25% on back-to-school items.
Most popular characters:
- 1. Minions
- 2. Jurassic World
- 3. SpongeBob SquarePants
- 4. Star Wars
- 5. Cinderella
Source: RetailMeNot survey