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Confessions of a PANK

Have you spotted a PANK in your store? If reports are to be believed, she will be toting a designer handbag and possibly a latte, …

Have you spotted a PANK in your store? If reports are to be believed, she will be toting a designer handbag and possibly a latte, with no kids in sight. Even so, she will spend big on children’s apparel and gifts.

That’s because a PANK is the latest demographic dreamed up by marketers: A professional woman in her 30s or 40s with no kids of her own but an abiding love for her little nieces and nephews. The acronym was first coined by Melanie Notkin, who runs the blog SavvyAuntie.com. “While parents are stretched to their limits, PANKs are able and happy to offer support to the children in their lives in meaningful ways. They may be secondary caregivers, but with their emotional, financial and material gifts—not to mention their quality time and positive influence—PANKs play a primary role in the vitality of the American family village,” Notkin asserts.

Whether or not most aunts live up to that noble role may be up for debate, but there’s no doubt, at 23 million strong, that they make up a huge chunk of the American population. According to a study jointly conducted by Notkin and public relations firm Weber Shandwick, “PANKs estimated that they spent an average of $387 on each child in their lives during the past year, with 76 percent having spent more than $500 per child. This translates to an annual PANK buying power averaging roughly $9 billion.”

Can $9 billion be right? If my recent purchases are any indication, it’s entirely possible. Here, I must confess: My name is Audrey, and I am a PANK. With a nephew turning 3 and a goddaughter on the way this month, I’ve been going a bit wild at my favorite children’s boutiques here in the city—not to mention on sites like Giggle and Magic Beans. Every time I re-dedicate myself to reigning in my wayward impulse-buys, another adorable romper or hooded towel comes along and I fall off the wagon yet again.

Thankfully, I’m not alone: “We have a lot of dedicated aunties who frequent the store on a regular basis for special gifts,” says Angela Hession, owner of Austin, TX-based children’s boutique Millie & Mox. (Check out p. 28 for a profile of her charming shop.) “They love to attend birthday parties and other family events and want to have the best present at the party.”

Aunts are an ideal demographic for specialty retailers, Hession notes, “as they don’t worry too much about the cost of an item—it is more important to them that a gift is special, well made and something that they will be remembered for buying. They love shopping and you can feel their enthusiasm.”

Looking for ways to lure the PANKs in your area? This issue is chock-full of helpful advice, with features on everything from how to shore up your swim sales (p. 20) to the best ways to boost your camp business (p. 38). And any of the gorgeous swimsuits on our fashion pages, beginning on p. 44, would certainly make a splash with aunties looking for the perfect summer splurge. Happy hunting!

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