Seeking to spare parents the trials and tribulations of shopping with their young children, a group of entrepreneurs and investors with roots in fashion and technology have launched Kidbox.
The company is a children’s wear business that Haim Dabah, acting chief executive officer and partner in Kidbox and a well-known pioneer in brand-building and apparel manufacturing, says is based on convenience and “push commerce.” That involves an advanced machine-learning algorithm making data-driven decisions or predictions which help stylists to handpick items and create customized assortments. These selections then get shipped to families so clothes are discovered and tried on at home. The hassles of shopping stores and the ordeal of a fitting room are avoided.
Kidbox is also geared to create an enjoyable, shared experience where parents and kids together unwrap packages, contents unknown, in the spirit of opening birthday or Christmas gifts. “Parents are feeling guilty about not spending more time with their kids. The idea is to give moms more time by reinventing a way of shopping with kids,” said Dabah.
While it is seeking to grab a slice of the nation’s $38 billion children’s wear industry, Dabah said the Kidbox format was inspired by Trunk Club for men’s wear and Stitch Fix for women’s wear. Those businesses are gaining popularity, utilize the push commerce format and have stylists picking clothes for those who prefer not to shop for themselves.
Dabah’s son Morris, also a partner in Kidbox, spoke to the convenience factor. “When you are online, the choices are overwhelming,” he said. “Kidbox is for busy parents who want to buy great outfits for their kids at a great price, and would prefer someone else to do the work for them.”
Harry Tawil, cofounder of Kidbox, said, “Shopping for kids can be time-consuming and often difficult. Kidbox lets experts do the time-consuming part and delivers families just the fun part — opening presents together, with cool new things to wear.”
In addition to their roles at Kidbox, Tawil and Morris Dabah serve as ceo and president, respectively, of Q4, a children’s wear licensing and manufacturing company. Kidbox sources products from 20 brands in Q4’s stable so in each Kidbox delivered are items from such labels as Butter Supersoft, Seven For All Mankind, Lucky Brand, Reebok, Kenzie, Limited Too, Weatherproof and Paper Denim & Cloth. Kidbox is also sourcing brands from other companies. Both Q4 and Kidbox are based at 20 West 33rd Street in Manhattan.
Other key players at Kidbox are Justin Renard, who oversees marketing and brand strategy, and Gal Brill, chief technology officer and another cofounder.
There’s an important charity aspect to the business. For every $98 spent by a family, a new outfit, jacket or dress will be sent to a child in need through K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers Inc., which provides children’s clothes to foster children, children of military families and families confronting financial crisis or natural disasters.
“The charitable component is really essential,” Haim Dabah noted. “Maybe Kidbox represents the first time moms and their kids talk about giving.”
“So many needy children never have new clothes, and so many families with financial capacity would like to help others. Kidbox recognizes this situation,” said Lisa D. Gurwitch, president and ceo of K.I.D.S./Fashion Delivers. “It’s remarkable for a company to start out making this commitment. The experience encourages families to begin a conversation with their kids about how they can help make a difference in another child’s life.”
Over the last 50 days, the Kidbox format has been successfully tested with about 200 families, said Haim Dabah, giving him confidence in today’s Kidbox launch. “The most important thing is to make sure the system works. We have experienced a very high retention rate.”
Those who sign onto Kidbox automatically receive four boxes of children’s wear annually, one for each season, and a fifth holiday box, though members can add or skip deliveries, or cancel the service totally. This is not a subscription model.
Opting in is simple. There’s no fee to join, no delivery fees and only a short online questionnaire with eight questions, to determine a child’s age, activities, style preferences and sizes. The company’s assortment caters to girls and boys, from toddler sizes up to size 14.
“The key is that we are using national brands and Kidbox to do the work for you,” said the older Dabah.
Here’s what’s inside a Kidbox:
* An ensemble of six to seven items that work together to form a wardrobe, at an average price of $15 to $20 per item.
* A shipping pouch, pre-printed label and free postage to return any or all items. Boxes will be delivered by FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service on Fridays and Saturdays when everybody is more likely at home.
* Surprise gifts for the kids — like jewelry, letter stickers and other educational products.
Adding to the fun of opening a box of gifts, the Kidbox itself is designed so kids can color it, and it’s sturdy enough to store things. Boxes come in two sizes.
Haim Dabah, recently a group president at Li & Fung USA now known as Global Brands Group, with a long track record of involvement in proprietary brand creation, in November 2014 launched HDS Capital in New York to invest in tech start-ups. HDS also targets venture funds and “accelerator” companies that work to grow other companies. His other son, Mac, is currently running HDS so that the elder Dabah can focus on the Kidbox launch. HDS Capital and First Time Ventures in Tel Aviv provided seed funding for Kidbox.
“One of the key benefits of HDS Capital is that our various technology start-ups support each other,” said Haim Dabah. “For example, one of our early investments, Stylitics, is providing the automated-outfit-building-engine for Kidbox. This enables our stylists not only to make the best style choice from our algorithm, but also to feature outfits.” Nine engineers in Tel Aviv, led by Brill, are part of the effort. They have been involved in developing a custom code focused on the algorithm.
“Kids really do fall into specific personalities,” affecting how they dress, observed Sara Pilot, a fashion consultant who works for Elie Tahari, Steve Madden and now at Kidbox as a stylist. They can be sporty or preppy, or more urban or sophisticated, for example, though not necessarily always one way or another, she said. A boy could wear a button-down shirt with a fitted blazer one day, and baggy jeans with a logo T-shirt the next. It’s her job to see where the kids of Kidbox fit in, and work with the team to customize the shipments, with the items and brands that work together to create an ensemble tailored to the tastes of a particular child. “It’s very hard to do that when you go to the store with your child,” Pilot said.
The boho-chic look, crochet, lace and black leggings are currently among the best-sellers in girls’ merchandise, Pilot said. For boys, she added, “the hottest thing is the change from the loose-fitted athletic pant to the jogger.”
“Having two children myself, I know it’s a battle going to a store with a child,” said Pilot. “I don’t know one person who has ever said ‘I had fun shopping with my son or daughter.’ It is very hard for a kid to enjoy it. They hate to try things on,” though she acknowledged, as kids grow up, they change their attitude and are more inclined to have a day of shopping with mom.
“The Kidbox philosophy is nice because you are in your own home, and you have this great experience of opening this box,” finding clothes with toys inside. “And the graphics are colorful and happy, very Lichtenstein-inspired,” Pilot said. Base, an international branding firm with offices in New York, Brussels and Geneva, created the graphics and photography.
“With the way the little toys unwrap, it doesn’t matter so much what the toy is,” said Pilot, adding that it’s about providing an element of surprise.