And Baby Makes...

And Baby Makes... - 2007-01-01 05:00:00 | Gifts and Dec
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And Baby Makes...
gift retailers' cash registers ring. New little people deserve their own
'stuff' and families are eager to comply.
By Pamela Brill -- Gifts and Dec, 1/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
They may be small in size, but not in sales. For many retailers, adding products for babies and
toddlers to their merchandise array means big business. Whether consumers are buying a shower gift
or celebrating a birthday, these purchases translate to extra revenue and further encourage gift stores
to bolster their juvenile inventory.
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One case in point is Imagine Gift Store, Warren, RI, which took advantage of a move to a new
location to broaden the store's juvenile merchandise mix. The store already had a six-year history of
selling baby products at the time of the move. "We wanted to sell quality unique lines," but didn't have
sufficient space, explains Emily Calandrelli, who owns Imagine with Gene Oberhauser.
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This unusual retail venue — voted "the best place to find a whimsical gift" by a local magazine —
appeals to consumers of all ages, and even houses a malt and candy shop that harkens back to the
1950s. But after six years, store size cramped its creative owners' style. When Imagine moved, it
beefed up its baby merchandise substantially, devoting 1,000 square feet on the store's third level to
infants through age 12 — half of which is for ages 0–3.
Upon entering this floor, customers are greeted by a mechanical puppet show that ties in the old
theater balcony look of this department. "Kids love to take their parents to see the puppet show,"
Calandrelli tells Gifts & Decorative Accessories.
Consumers can select from a variety of products, including clothing from Zutano, of Cabot, VT;
Spencer, MA-based Taggies soft toys; Dezi slippers and Douglas Cuddle Toys plush (Keene, NH). To
keep displays fresh and appealing, Calandrelli makes frequent changes using wooden hutches and
special glass fixtures.
Imagine's extra floor space was a welcome addition, especially when catering to the retailer's growing
grandparent clientele. "Most of our customers say it's very convenient [to be able to buy baby items
here], since they don't have to make an extra trip to the mall," adds Calandrelli. "It's an excellent mix
with our other lines and really accentuates the total gift presentation."
It only makes sense that a store named Paddington Station would carry children's products. Dubbed
"Ashland, Oregon's Eclectic Emporium," this retailer houses a variety of gifts, including home decor,
books, stationery, kitchenware, clothing and toys, in over 8,000 square feet of retail space. "The space
allows many opportunities for trying new product," explains co-owner Pam Hammond, who, along with
husband Don, bought the business in 1993.
While the store has always carried Baby's First Christmas ornaments, Hammond says they recently
decided to experiment with other juvenile gifts. However, she notes, it wasn't a matter of bringing in
just anything. "We did not want to compete in the same products that our two local children's stores
carried, so we decided to carry "gift-oriented products," she explains.
Using an 8-foot hutch near the high-traffic toy section, flanked by a couple of product wing fixtures,
Hammond positioned parenting books from New York-based Workman Publishing and Chronicle
Books of San Francisco. They've been particularly strong sellers because they're "very funny and
giftable," she notes.
Other merchandise that attracted a great deal of attention includes Pee-Pee Teepee from Beba Bean[5/18/2011 8:42:37 AM]
And Baby Makes... - 2007-01-01 05:00:00 | Gifts and Dec
Designs, British Columbia, Canada ("a real hoot"), a wooden letter display for spelling out kids' names
("a great personalized gift") and baby clothing from Montreal-based Hatley and Department 56 of Eden
Prairie, MN. Hammond says she places monthly re-orders for Ty baby animal plush and Pierceton, INbased Stephan Enterprises' Boo-Bunnie Ice Packs for treating little bumps and bruises.
Like Imagine Gift Store and Paddington Station, Impressions Collectibles in Brunswick, GA, has
carried baby gifts for some time. "We started about seven years ago when I became a grandmother,"
explains Sandra Hochwald, owner of the 21-year-old specialty shop.
However, the store truly expanded on its juvenile section about three years ago, when Hochwald
decided it was time to broaden the product mix for more general appeal. By doing so, she discovered
a demographic that needed to be addressed: grandmothers. "We found that grandmothers were an
untapped source for gift-buying, and have since added new business to our store," Hochwald
To better appeal to this clientele, Hochwald allotted 16 feet of shelf space to baby gifts, and began to
bring in soft goods such as infant blankets, towels and clothing; picture frames; banks and plush.
Some of the store's more popular items are plush balls, books and blankets from Taggies and the
Prince/Princess gift lines from Mud Pie.
Selected products are designated by blue and pink sections to help direct shoppers to the appropriate
items of interest. "We also cross-merchandise with our age-related products, which provides repeat
business with each birthday," adds Hochwald.
The addition of baby gifts has improved Impressions Collectibles' overall sales and attracted a brand
new type of customer. "It has filled in an age gap and gives our customers a reason to always shop
with us when they need a gift," remarks Hochwald.
When retailers have success with one children's product category, it often prompts them to enhance
that merchandise with a selection of additional related items.
Such was the case for The Gift Shop at Ebb Tide in Dennisport, MA, where owner Chrisanne
McCormick began as a children's bookseller, catering to summertime visitors to the Cape Cod area.
Eventually her business evolved into a seaside gift shop in which children's books are often
merchandised with a related toy to boost sales. "Sometimes they're sold in this way by the publisher,
but you can easily find companion toys to match your favorite books," she explains. "We often include
a pail and shovel with our favorite beach books."
McCormick realized she could appeal to her customers with other children's products. Because her gift
shop is part of a resort that includes two restaurants, she notes that parents often look for items to
entertain their children during their dinner.
Today, the Gift Shop at Ebb Tide's inventory includes an extensive roster of children's gifts, including
jewelry, signed books, plush and destination apparel. Big sellers include Flip Flops plush dogs from
Mary Meyer of Townshend, VT; area artists' Cape Cod bracelets for babies and children; and picture
books like Good Night Cape Cod and Good Night Boston by local author Adam Gamble (On Cape
And because such books are still near and dear to McCormick, her store often holds book signings,
which help sales tremendously. "We often serve something delicious to encourage mingling," she
adds. "People are easier to approach in a relaxed setting."
In addition to in-store events, McCormick says her business gets a boost from colorful displays,
attractive signage and cross-merchandising. "Most important is our knowledgeable and engaging
customer service," she adds.
It is this personal touch that helps her seasonal business thrive. When customers leave the store, they
are bid farewell via a sign overhead that reads "The best customers in the world visit this shop; Thank
you for being one of them."
"People appreciate being remembered," says McCormick. "They feel special when they are recognized
and they return each summer."
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK[5/18/2011 8:42:37 AM]
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And Baby Makes... - 2007-01-01 05:00:00 | Gifts and Dec
When Maureen Gonzales bought Verbena last August, adding baby products to the seven-year-old
Greenhold, NY, store's mix was first on her list. "Babies are adorable and never go out of style," she
enthuses. "Buying a gift for a baby makes everyone feel good; it's just as rewarding to the purchaser
as it is to the recipient."
Because her store caters to a mix in both age and gender — customers range from middle to upper
income women and men, as well as teenagers — Gonzales has been able to invest in a number of
whimsical baby items. Favorites include Punkster onesies in a bottle and iPoo'd one-pieces from
Mercer Island, WA–based Baby Rockstar.
Even though the baby business is new for Verbena, Gonzales says it has been personally uplifting. "It
certainly has given me a boost," she says. "When the first products came in, I made a display window
and it really brought people into the store."
Adding baby products also helped her customers' perception of Verbena, a store that up until then had
been focused primarily on offbeat and sometimes quirky gifts for the home and office. "Some say it
gives the store a bit more 'juice,' " explains Gonzales. "I think it softens the tone a bit."
Whether they've been carrying baby gifts for years or a few short months, most retailers agree that
adding a new category of product to their inventory requires tremendous effort. Storeowners could lose
sight of the store's original focus.
One retailer who realized this is Djel Brown of bizarre. Her Omaha, NE-based store devoted an entire
balcony to toys, stocking it with wooden playthings from Melissa & Doug, Westport, CT, and plush
from Minneapolis-based Manhattan Toy. "Our research showed these were not available at the mass
market," Brown tells G&DA.
While these toys initially sold, sales were still slow and before long, a nearby Target store began
selling similar items.
At the same time, bizarre began carrying children's furniture, including roll-top desks, large dollhouse
bookcases and rocking chairs. Brown admits that these were a hit with grandparents, but
unfortunately, didn't make for quick sales and occupied a great deal of floor space.
Infant clothing was next and attracted a great deal of attention. They had strong sales, but Brown says
she had to monitor clothing sizes constantly. "For the first time in my career, I had to figure out how to
sell leftovers and pieces that didn't match," she explains.
At this point, Brown realized it was time to re-evaluate her goals. By tailoring the children's selection
to include products that were "more in the scope of the gallery setting we had created," bizarre can
concentrate on more select merchandise. These include handmade Noobies baby blankets from
England, music boxes and some Baptism gifts.
With this revised inventory, Brown says she now realizes her store does not need to "be the source for
children's holiday gifts." For those retailers looking to introduce children's gifts to their customers, she
advises stores to know who their customer base is and find unique gifts.
Spa Kids
Are we ever too young for a day at the spa? Not according to Heidi
Moon, president of Spabébé featuring Maternal Fitness, New York.
Calling itself "an urban destination spa for moms and moms-to-be,"
the spa combines retail space with spa and fitness services for an
inside-and-out approach that takes moms from pre-pregnancy prep
through 'Lose Your Mummy Tummy.' For baby, Moon notes that one
of the most popular services is infant massage, which offers health
benefits such as "calming colic and helping with digestion."
But consumers don't have to go to a spa to get the benefits. Moon
recommends they try it at home. "It's a great bonding exercise that
dads can get involved with," she says. With a little training — in
person or via a book or DVD — infant massage "gives guys a lot of
confidence," as well as an intimate personal connection akin to what
new mothers experience when nursing.
When it comes to product, Moon recommends Huntington Beach,
CA-based Mama Mio's Gravida massage oil ($18/100 ml.), with foodgrade ingredients and some very light aromatherapy. Spabébé uses it
for pre- and post-natal massage as well as infant massage. "It's
amazing to me that even great companies like Johnson & Johnson
still have a lot of petroleum-based products for babies," says Moon.
She's not alone in that opinion. All mothers have concerns about[5/18/2011 8:42:37 AM]
And Baby Makes... - 2007-01-01 05:00:00 | Gifts and Dec
what goes into the products that touch their children's skin. Due to
increasing awareness of allergies, sensitivities and the effect of the
first few years on lifelong health, some parents worry that more is at
stake than a temporary irritation. Combine that trend with the rapidly
growing popularity of organic and natural products, and the result is
that many consumers are open to an alternative to major drugstore
and supermarket brands.
The appeal of tiny items and a playful aesthetic have converged with
the trend toward older mothers having fewer children to make
products for babies and children popular across all categories.
Parents and grandparents with more cash to spend per child are
anxious to make sure their child has the best. Today's parents have
a well-developed sense of personal style, and don't plan to check it at
the door of parenthood. Personal care brands that are cool as well as
cute speak to that self-image. For older kids, that same cool factor
can help train them into life-long good hygiene habits.
In addition, older mothers are more likely to be savvy personal care
customers, knowledgeable about products and ingredients. Having
relied on personal care products to see them through the swollen feet
and stretch marks of pregnancy, they're likely to turn to the same
brands (and stores) to help care for their babies. Some smaller
brands were even created by moms for their own children — that's a
strong emotional appeal.
Another emotional draw is combining baby and new mother wellness,
whether through baby yoga or personal care products that can be
used on mom and baby alike. It's practical, too: mom can carry just
one moisturizer when she's on the go.
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