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Charlotte Wilkie

Drapers probe leading Independents to get their View From The Shop floor.

How is trade at the moment?
It’s been quiet in the shop, but online sales have been better. We specialise in very unusual things, products that you can’t easily get in the UK, so we’re not competing with the high street. While it’s quieter in the week, weekends are definitely up, so we’re probably in a similar position to last year.

Which brands are selling well in your store at the moment?
Molo, it’s a Danish company, and Ted Baker are both performing well. Bóboli has been doing well, and Snuglo always sells.

Are you buying into any new brands?
Yes, I’ve just placed an order with a new company last week, called Kids Ink. It’s an American company, based in California. We’re the only UK stockists. They do really good prints and embellishments.

Which age-ranges do you appeal to?
We do 0 to 6 year-olds. We do the odd thing up to age 8 in the summer, but our main market is 0-1. I’ve adapted my buying accordingly, so we have much more of a selection for 0-1 year-olds.

What’s driving product trends in kidswear?
Price firstly. Then I think people are looking for unusual things. I wouldn’t say celebrity as some people do, I’m not convinced. Something that makes the customer laugh, our most popular T-shirt is one with the slogan Lock up Your Daughters. People love it!

Where do you see areas of growth for kidswear?
Wholesale. We cut back this last year, but it’s definitely the future for us.

Are you introducing any new categories?
Not really. We specialise in clothes and footwear. A lot of kidswear shops try to do too much and it doesn’t work.

Do you have transactional website?
Yes. We re-launched our website last year so we could start selling online, and we’re launching a web campaign in January to hit maternity packs.

What can we expect from you next year?
We want to expand our own range. The cost is great, but we know as the retailer what sells, and we can adapt to that.

How is the kidswear market faring in the current climate, have you noticed any change in your customer?
I’ve noticed a big change. Customers are much more price-aware. People are not spending in such volumes as before. We used to get a lot of customers spending £500-£1,000 in one go. The same customers are still coming back in, but they have cut it back to £200. Generally people aren’t spending as much, and I’ve reflected that in the brands I’m introducing. Brands that aren’t performing as well I have to get rid of, like Catimini. We are very competitively priced and we look for brands that are too.

How are you feeling about next year?
Not too bad. We’re not a new start-up, we’ve paid all our start-up costs and our bank balance is quite nice. We’re a very tight team as well – it’s me, my husband and two other members of staff – so we don’t have that many costs. Having said that, it’s going to a tough year, but we want to increase our wholesale side, which hopefully will help.

What are the biggest challenges facing kidswear, is the boyswear market still tough?
Boyswear is a harder market to buy for. You have different types of boys, whereas you can just buy pink for girls and it will sell. A lot of people that do boyswear do just one type, like sport. We do different types from urban and everyday to smart/formal wear, but the biggest challenge at the moment is getting the right product, getting in on the shelf and shifting it, without pushing a sale onto a customer.

Charlotte Barley, co-owner of Charlie Barley Kidswear in Brighton.

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