Newswise — Attention parents. There's a small bottle of good news floating in the wake of the current economic crisis:

"Kids today think it is cool to be frugal," said Dr. Kristy Reynolds, Bruno Associate Professor of Marketing at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce.

"Instead of shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch, teens and tweens are shopping at Aeropostale, TJ Maxx, Ross, Wal-Mart and Buckle," Reynolds said.

"Now, kids grow up so much faster, and they are smarter consumers, so we recognize the spending power and influence of the younger set. They are spending, but they are very careful about how they spend."

Teen retailer Aeropostale has heard that message. The company just created a new clothing chain for kids ages 7-12 called P.S. to tap what company officials say is a $14 billion market.

"Tweens have always been there," Reynolds said, "but they have, up until now, been overlooked. And, in the past, kids have not been as savvy. Kids are smarter now than the Baby Boomers or the Generation Xers were when they were kids."

Tweens spend about $43 billion a year and influence the spending of billions of dollars more on everything from cell phones to vacations to automobiles, Reynolds said.

"Tweens and teens often want the same products, but there are more constraints placed on the younger tweens," Reynolds said. "The younger tweens have more rules and less freedom, and they are also more influenced and guided by their parents in their shopping."

She also said that a lot of tweens don't have jobs yet, and their spending might be constrained somewhat by their parents.

Aeropostale will offer clothing for both boy and girl tweens. Reynolds said both are important markets now, although the way they allocate their spending habits are different.

"Girls will spend their money on clothing and accessories, and games, gadgets and phones. Boys spend their money on items like video games," Reynolds said, noting that overall spending on video games is up.

And, of course, the Internet and the home computer have a role in all of this.

"Teens and tweens are the ultimate multi-taskers," according to Reynolds."They do homework, text message their friends, surf the Internet, all at the same time. At the same time, they like the social aspect of shopping in stores with their friends. But, they do a lot of pre-shopping online and browsing online. They are smart shoppers, and they know how to look for the best deals online before they head for the mall."

From a marketer's standpoint, Reynolds said, "They like bite-sized information, so messages should be short. They also like to interact with Web sites."

Even the nation's struggling book-publishing business is looking to the tweens for help, turning out short, easy-to-read books on tween idols such as the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift.

And then there is "Hanna Montana: The Movie" featuring Miley Cyrus, the queen of tween, that took in $17.4 million when it opened on Good Friday.