The XX Factor

Why Is “Lucky” Launching a Shopping Mag for Kids During a Recession?

The influential shopping mag Lucky has announced plans to debut Lucky Kids . The expected due date: April 2011. The sample cover for Lucky Kids released by Conde Nast features a smiling blonde girl dressed in a stylish, unfitted blue-and-white checkered suit jacket with a white shirt and includes such subject lines as “Everything You Need for the First 12 Months,” “358 Irresistible Items,’ and my personal favorite, “New for Spring: The Cutest Clothes Ever!,” which begged the question of what I had been dressing my two boys in. The formerly cutest clothes ever?

You might think that this is a foolish idea. Who would launch another shopping magazine during an economic trough, especially since Lucky ’s ad pages declined during the second quarter of this year ?  But surveying the world of spending on children in an article for The Big Money last year about the now-defunct high-end parenting magazine Cookie , I came to a surprising conclusion. Spending on the kiddies, if no longer on steroids, was still quite healthy and the marriage of conspicuous consumption and over-the-top parenting remained firmly entrenched. Lucky ’s PR department is under no illusions who their audience is, telling the blog StyleList , ” Lucky Kids is a continuation of Lucky ’s focus on fashion and style, but it is geared toward parents-mothers, mainly.”

As Peggy Orenstein demonstrates in her upcoming book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter , marketing by avaricious corporations plays no small part in the continuation of the kiddie-spending-industrial complex. But while many of us moms like to bemoan the general culture of money and parenting, few of us are willing to cop to our own roles in its continued existence. It’s not, after all, infants purchasing $700 strollers, or signing up for a membership at the exclusive Citibabes club. By the time Disney and other companies like them get their message to our sons and daughters, they are reaching out to future spenders who have all-too-often been primed by the people who love them best to make the link between what we own and how we feel about ourselves.

Not surprisingly, the cost of raising children has continued to creep upward in recent years, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimating that the cost of raising a middle-income child to the age of 18 is a little more than $222,000 in 2009, up 1.4 percent from 2007. (That number excludes college costs.) The number for upper-income families: $369,000.

We live in a culture where maternal love is all too often conflated with monetary demonstrations of that love. The publisher and editors at Lucky Magazine are simply the latest to recognize that truth. They are unlikely to be the last.