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NEW YORK — Unsteady as the economy is, many fashion-minded parents are still willing to splurge on new clothes for their children.

This story first appeared in the January 14, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And lots of brands are vying for a piece of this market. While designers have been edging into the kids’ business for several seasons, over the weekend, Gap Inc. added a new dimension to its offer by introducing a limited-edition BabyGap collection inspired by Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” The line was introduced Saturday at the Gap unit at The Grove in Los Angeles, followed by a worldwide store and gap.com rollout today.

Given the degrees of immersion, it is not surprising that this week’s Children’s Club show at Pier 92 will feature more than 20 new exhibitors. In total, there will be 250-plus exhibitors showcasing apparel and accessories, according to a spokesman for the show’s organizer, ENK International. Launched in 2000, the show reflects an assortment of new names and established brands with products geared for newborns through 12-year-olds. This time around, the three-day show, which runs through Tuesday, will also showcase labels that are Made in America or eco-friendly.


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Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Kors, DKNY and John Varvatos are among the designer labels showing at the New York event.

John O’Donnell, founder of Johnnie-O, expects to open about eight new accounts at the show for his label’s children’s wear.

“What we’re finding is once we get a shop, they continue to reorder,” he said. “Each account is worth about $5,000 a year and as we get more popular, we can start to increase the average sale for each store.”

Children’s sales account for about 15 to 20 percent of Johnnie-O’s total volume, which is pretty consistent with a year ago. Polo shirts, hoodies and wedge-collar dresses are among the key items. Noting that a child’s shirt retails for $38, whereas a men’s shirt goes for $65, O’Donnell said the sales ratio is a matter of units sold, not a lack of popularity. Consumer awareness is expected to continue to rise since Johnnie-O shipped catalogues for the first time last year and the inaugural look book was recently shot at Venice Beach. O’Donnell and his team relocated to offices on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. That space will also be used for a Johnnie-O store at some point.

Ella Moss and Splendid will also be showing at Pier 92. “Exciting product is the motivational factor in getting consumers to spend. We’ve found novelty, color and nods to current trends to be key influences in current buying directives,” a company spokeswoman said. “Camo print for boys and girls will be important. We’ve added feminine touches to the girls’ pieces while keeping boys’ versions colorful and fun. Splendid’s signature stripes will continue to be a mainstay, while we will introduce newness such as contrast piping and fabric mixing.”

Children’s Club offers an international array of brands in every category of children’s clothing, from newborn to age 12, layette items, fashion accessories, footwear, toys and gifts. Introduced in 2000, exhibitors reflect an eclectic base of new designers and established collections. Children’s Club attracts midrange to better children’s specialty retailers and boutiques and is held four times a year in New York, in January, March, August and October.

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