From cost to color, children’s apparel vendors are finding new ways to differentiate their product and shore up business.
Retailers continue to feel the pain of the recession, but kids’ wear exhibitors at the show are adjusting approaches and expectations for the year ahead. For emerging brands trying to find stable footing in the market, just making the trek to larger trade shows is a big part of their business strategy for 2010.
Summer Nakagawa, who cofounded Hawaii-based children’s label Sn-r-g, said she hoped the upstart label’s all-organic materials and vibrant colors would gain traction at the show. The line includes onesies and toddler T-shirts, which come in nine styles and a range of colors and wholesale for $12 apiece.
“It’s different from most organic lines, which are really muted shades like beige, white, or gray, and way more fun than the typical pastel palette for baby clothes,” Nakagawa said. “I think people will respond to that.”
Heading to MAGIC is expensive for new businesses and long-distance travelers like Sn-r-g, but Nakagawa said the cost was something she and her co-founders felt would net orders and visibility.
“This will be the way we gauge response,” Nakagawa said. “We always have felt like more of a boutique brand, but this could be the opportunity to break out. So far we haven’t really been about the big chain stores, but we’ll see what happens.”
Penelope Wildberry, a Las Vegas-based line known mainly for its high-end hand-painted sheepskin boots, is expanding with children’s apparel, featuring custompainted artwork by John O’Leary, who founded the rock ’n’ roll hippie-style line with his wife, Stacy, more than two years ago. The boots are already carried in national retailers like Neiman Marcus and boutiques including Fred Segal and Kitson.
“Our move into apparel is based on what our customers want, which really is the key to success right now in the apparel business,” said brand manager Alison Gallaher. “We started in 2007, so we haven’t had to change much of anything through the recession. Our price points have stayed essentially the same.”
At retail prices of up to $170 for children’s boots and children’s activewear starting at $69, Penelope Wildberry is more expensive than the average kids’ brand. But Gallaher said she feels a strong celebrity following (Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani) has garnered the brand plenty of valuable media exposure.
Still, experienced apparel brands acknowledge the recession-worn road ahead won’t be easy to navigate, and are trying to adjust their strategies accordingly. For those who’ve seen foot traffic and orders fall over the past several years, the name of the game is making up for the drop-off in buyers with greater volume per order.
“We are aware of what’s going on out there. Buyers are smaller and fewer and being conservative with the orders,” said Jeph Hemmer, co-founder of Avatar Imports, a MAGIC exhibitor for about 15 years. “But that’s what can set vendors like us apart. We’ve seen hard times before and we’re still here.”