PARIS — The premium children’s wear sector has “wind in the sails” worldwide and shows no signs of slowing, according to Rémy Baume, the chief executive officer of Kidiliz, maker of Kenzo Kids and Paul Smith Junior.
Formerly known as Zannier Group, the French company that produces 15 brands for children was re-baptized last month in a ploy to enhance international visibility and reinforce the company’s multibrand retail concept — also called Kidiliz — on the high streets and online.
As adult fashions face limited growth and multiple headwinds in the new year, sentiment surrounding the premium children’s wear sector is more optimistic. Worldwide sales of children’s wear reached $151.23 billion in 2015 after enjoying growth of 5.6 percent in both 2014 and 2015, according to Euromonitor, and the market is expected to keep growing in size.
Kidiliz plans to open 50 new locations for its brands in 2017, including storefronts in Dubai, Colombia, Italy, and China. The company already operates more than 900 retail locations including single-brand boutiques for brands like Z and Catimini and multi-brand emporiums offering merchandise from across the group’s lines. Once wholesale is factored in, Kidiliz group counts 11,000 points of sale and saw revenues of $430 million in 2015.
In addition to Kenzo and Paul Smith, Kidiliz group holds licenses to produce Junior Gaultier, Levi’s Kids (for Europe and the Middle East), and most recently Esprit.
Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld are among the latest brands to reach out to a knee-high clientele — and their image-conscious parents — through licensing deals with children’s wear groups (in the case of these two designers, with Kidiliz’s chief French competitor Children’s Worldwide).
Sales in premium children’s wear — and particularly designer licenses — are expected to keep growing along with the middle class in emerging economies. “We can grow fast in these markets because people have been exposed to so much marketing for these brands,” said Baume. “There’s already a real desire to wear them or to see one’s kids wearing them.”
“The premiumization of children’s wear has been fueled by […] changing demographics and the rising spending power of consumers,” said Euromonitor analyst Bernadette Kissane. ‘“Bling-fueled consumption and the trend toward westernization in emerging markets are creating opportunities for premium brands.”
While the rapid growth paradigm for luxury goods has faded in China and Hong Kong since 2015, the end of the one-child policy in the world’s most populous country could lead to a demographic boom beneficial for the premium children’s wear sector.
Meanwhile, sales in the online space have become increasingly significant, with sites like Alexandalexa.com and Childrensalon.com offering a Net-a-porter-style portal for kids. Kidiliz’s multibrand web site has seen sales grow by as much as 30 percent in 2016, according to Baume, who has been the firm’s ceo since 2013.
The rise of social media and smartphone use has also played a role in the growth of premium and designer children’s wear, according to Baume. “Through social networks and selfies, children are exposed to their image much sooner—and parents are sensitive to this,” said Baume.
The desire to fit in — or for your child to fit in — is increasingly likely to express itself through fashion, and at a younger age. By allowing parents to instantly show off pictures of their offspring to friends and extended family — people who might have only seen them at holidays or parties before — social media gives some parents motivation to make every day a fashion show.
In this context, consumers are increasingly willing to buy children’s clothes at prices that can line up with a designer’s adult offer — growth spurts be damned.
A boy’s blue velvet blazer from Paul Smith Junior line costs 322 euros, for example, and printed sweatshirts from Kenzo Kids go for 85 euros to 105 euros on the Kidiliz web site.
Brands for infants and kids have been affected by the broader trend toward more markdowns and off-price sales over the past 15 years, according to Baume, but the premium children’s wear sector is partially insulated by the fact that many sales are intended as gifts for special occasions.
“If it’s Christmas or the child’s birthday and you want to offer the child a special item, you won’t be able to wait until it goes on sale,” said Baume.
One clear benefit for brands to do a children’s wear license is about capturing young consumers. “Once a kid wears your brand, then there is an open door to the adult line,” said Baume.
But rather than making “mini-me” versions of adult fashions, Kidiliz has focused on licensing brands that already have a playful, colorful aesthetic that will easily transfer to a children’s wear universe. “Parents use clothes to project a vision of childhood and how they think their child should be,” said Baume. When exploring a licensing deal, “it’s important that a brand has values that line up with the rest of our lines.”
And while licensing deals of designer brands may be good business for children’s wear manufacturers — allowing them to leverage the adult line’s image and design concepts — that doesn’t mean that kid-only brands will fade.
Brands whose entire messaging is focused on children are also capable of commanding a premium price point—as in the case of the delicate and girly Lili Gaufrette line, where winter coats for four- to 12-year-olds retail for 200 euros.
“For some consumers, childhood is childhood, and should still remain apart,” Baume said.