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Parents and their children are becoming more brand aware as the market
grows and designer houses push the trend for kids' fashion. Above,
youngsters model clothing by Gap Kids. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Childrens' brands the height of UAE
fashion
Rory Jones
Bubbles & Giggles, Pitter Patter and Gingersnaps are just a few of the
creatively named children's fashion stores in Dubai Mall.
Overlooking the aquarium on the second floor, shoals of pram-pushing
mothers nip in and out of brightly coloured stores that make up a corridor
of children's fashion.
Lesser-known brands such as Petit Bateau, Petits Petons and Little Castle
ply their trade next to world-famous designer names such as Ralph Lauren
and Armani Kids.
This busy corridor of more than 20 children's shops is growing, with Lovely
Lace Baby, Dior Kids and Gucci Kids all soon to open glamorous stores for
equally glamorous mothers and their fashion-conscious offspring.
"Parents want to see their children dressed well, and even the children are
becoming very brand-conscious," says Manmeet Padam, the brand
manager for Angels, a home-grown designer children's store run by the
Rivoli Group. "It's a big market for the fashion houses."
Angels, which has nine stores in the UAE, is a multi-branded retailer, selling
French, Italian and American products, including Baby Dior, Burberry,
Kenzo Kids, Ferrari and Hugo Boss.
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Clothing prices in the store start at Dh250 (US$68) and go up to Dh2,500.
"There's an increase in activity in the market. It's only going to get bigger
and better," says Ms Padam.
But the market is already huge. Parents spent an estimated $1 billion on
children's designer clothing and footwear last year in the Emirates,
according to the research company Euromonitor.
Moreover, the total spent on children's fashion, not just designer clothing, is
estimated to run into billions as the big operators, such as BabyShop and
Mothercare, dominate the mass market.
"Buying children's designer clothing is most common within the local
community and the Arab expatriates who are happy to splash out on their
children when they can afford it," says Sana Toukan, an analyst at
Euromonitor. "Children's designer outerwear in the UAE saw a healthy 16
per cent growth in 2010 on the previous year as the economy recovered,
leaving people with more disposable income to spend on their children."
Ms Toukan has not yet firmed up her figures for last year, but stores such
as Angels have reported sales growth of more than 30 per cent for last year
compared with 2010.
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Retailers have quickly recognised what the spending trend can mean for
their bottom lines, opening stores not just in Dubai Mall, but also in
shopping centres in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The Chalhoub Group, one of the biggest luxury players in the Middle East, is
rolling out its home-grown children's concept called Katakeet, Arabic for
"chicks".
In the mass-market segment, Liwa Trading Enterprises, an Abu Dhabi
retailer, plans to open 50 to 60 children's stores in the GCC in the next few
years, having signed franchise agreements with the Spanish retailers Gocco
and Charanga.
"Every international brand wants to move here," says Aniss Baobaid, the
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general manager of Liwa Trading. "They are basically creating the same
fashionability of the adult clothing, but for kids."
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As the market grows and fashion houses push the trend, children are also
becoming more brand-aware.
On a catwalk in Dubai Mall last Wednesday evening, the latest cocktail
dresses, tuxedos and dinner jackets - all for children - were on display.
Arranged by Majestic Kids, a store owned by International Business Group
Majestic, the event had five different themes: chic afternoon couples;
beachwear; glitter and jeans; fresh and snobbish; and evening occasions.
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It seems children also need wardrobes fit for any occasion.
As she rushes around Ralph Lauren Kids in Dubai Mall, Katja Kern, a
housewife from Germany who lives in Dubai, explains that her two girls,
who are 3 and 5, are aware of what is fashionable and what is destined for
the charity shop.
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"My girls are very conscious of what they like," she says, just after
explaining to the shop assistant that her daughters will not like the colours
suggested for polo shirts. "They have colours and princess ideas in mind,
which they learn in school and not at home. I do not make them aware of
brands. I'm very price-conscious and buy a lot in sales."
Saleh Suhail, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, is also wandering around the
children's corridor, pushing his 2-month-old baby boy in a pram.
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He is acutely aware that his son will quickly outgrow his clothes.
"I have bought a lot from BabyShop. I cannot buy all my clothes from
[designer] brands," Mr Suhail says. "They grow up so fast and their size is
always changing."
Despite parents' value-conscious approach to shopping for their children,
retailers say the market for newborn to 4 years old is one of the most
lucrative, because, as Mr Suhail says, young children grow quickly.
"The main business is from zero months to 12 years old, and we can say
that 50 per cent of the business is generated from sales for 0 months to 4
years, and in this case the parents are the decision-makers," says Rania
Masri, the operations manager at the Chalhoub Group retail division.
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Q&A: Big business in
little ones
Parents spend an average of
Dh1,500 (US$408) in
Katakeet, a children’s
designer store. Rania Masri,
the operations manager for
Chalhoub Group Retail,
which created the brand,
explains why children’s
fashion is becoming so
popular in the Gulf.
Is there a move by retailers
towards investing in designer kids
brands?It is surely a trend, not just by
retailers, but also by the design houses
themselves. Brands such as Lanvin and
Gucci have just started their children’s
line, a clear indication that this is a
trend to keep an eye on.
Why is the trend happening now?
Are parents spending more on
their children than they used to
do?Parents spend more on their
children in less-mature markets,
dressing them in designer brands to
communicate certain status, whereas
in more mature markets, parents focus
on less branded items and more on the
quality of the product.
So is there a propensity to spend
more on children here in the UAE
than in other parts of the world?
The average spend in the Gulf is much
higher than some consumers in Europe
or in the US. However, Italy and
Belgium remain the biggest spenders
in high-end children’s fashion brands.
Some emerging countries like Russia,
China, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have
been doubling their spending. In the
GCC, UAE leads the chart because of
the mix of tourists and local clients. If
we are looking at local clients only,
then Kuwait tops the spending chart
followed by Saudi Arabia, then UAE.
Sounds like the trend starts with
parents?The trend starts with the
brands. Every season we hear of a
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famous designer launching his/her kids
line, all mainly offering mini-me
silhouettes that the media and parents
desire. It all started with moms and
dads who want to dress their kids in
similar pieces to what they wear; as
well as parents wanting to make a
fashion statement or show a certain
status of wealth or fashion awareness.
Are children also driving this
trend?Over the age of 12, and often
much younger, is the group we call
“tweens” – this segment knows exactly
what they want and they fully drive the
trend. Major influences are TV and
music these days. This segment
dislikes shopping in the children’s
stores, and a new trend of tween
boutiques has been showing growth.
How has your home-grown
concept, Katakeet, been
welcomed?The concept of Katakeet,
which revolves around a kids story of
three characters created by British
illustrator Polly Dunbar, has been
welcomed [for] its innovative design
and personalised style. We are keen to
further develop the brand first in the
UAE, with the intention to go into the
Kuwait and Saudi market soon.
Are parents attracted to both wellknown international brands and
new home-grown concepts such as
Katakeet? For brands, the majority of
parents are still very traditional and
attracted only by the classic luxury
brand names. However, there is a
move led by younger and more
fashionable parents towards
contemporary designers, but it is still a
niche.
Who else does Chalhoub
represent?Within Katakeet, we have a
selection of the top children’s wear
brand names – Ralph Lauren Kids,
Burberry, Baby Dior, Tartine et
Chocolat and Fendi. In terms of
representation, we have Burberry,
Chloé, Hugo Boss, DKNY, Little Marc
Jacobs, Timberland, Simonetta, Il Gufo,
Paul Smith, Hackett, Sonia Rykiel and
Lanvin Petite.
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