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Kidswear moves up in the world

The first Global Kids Fashion Week will be held next year to cash in on increasing demand for kidswear.

From Liverpool to London, there seems to be a fashion week to suit everyone, and now the younger members of society will be able to get in on the act with the launch of Global Kids Fashion Week next year.

The three-day event, from March 18 to 20, will feature catwalk shows, exhibitions and talks in London’s Freemasons’ Hall. The launch has been spearheaded by Alex Theophanous, founder of luxury kidswear etailer AlexandAlexa.com, and Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of children’s charity Kids Company.

“This is the first time the industry has come together in a cohesive way,” says Theophanous. “Most of the luxury fashion houses have launched kids’ ranges, particularly as they are looking for ways to grow. The press are paying more interest and we felt it was time for kidswear to stand on its own two feet.”

Theophanous is still in talks with brands and keeping his cards close to his chest until all the deals are done. However, he tells Drapers Global Kids Fashion Week will replicate the approaches taken by the established shows, so the designers exhibiting are likely to be from the premium and high-end worlds.

Global Kids Fashion Week has been met with an enthusiastic response from the industry, with many brands and retailers eager to get involved.

“It’s a really positive move forward,” says Caroline Deehan, owner of kidswear indie Just Kidz in Athenry, Republic of Ireland. “It will bring attention to the kidswear market, which is always a good thing.”

Lynne Crook, buying manager for kidswear and toys at Selfridges, says the event will offer an opportunity for both established and emerging talent to get out and connect with potential partners: “This is such a fantastic opportunity for smaller or newer brands as it gives them a platform to establish themselves in the wider kidswear market.”

The show’s timing seems perfect. The kidswear market is prospering and trade show Pure London recently announced plans to launch a section dedicated to trend-led children’s ranges.

According to research firm Kantar Worldpanel, sales of kidswear have risen 6% to £5.12bn in the year to September 30. However, this is largely due to price inflation, with average prices mirroring that growth at 5.9%, while volume has seen a marginal decline of 1%.

Kantar Worldpanel consumer insight executive Glen Tooke says: “This is partly due to retailers taking advantage of the fact that childrenswear is more of an essential purchase than men’s or women’s wear.

“Children grow out of their clothes quickly and consumers are left with little other choice than to pay the price charged, whereas in other markets they can simply delay their spending.”

He adds: “This is also the reason that we’ve seen a degree of trading down in the childrenswear market to the supermarkets and value sector. It’s still true that consumers are buying in the mid-market, but they are seeking out discounts where they can.”

Shoppers might be looking out for bargains, but for retailers keen to avoid the squeeze in menswear and womenswear, appealing to the younger market has definite benefits.

Premium St Helens indie OD’s has recently expanded its kidswear offer to capitalise on growing demand, while southeast England-based mini-chain Base upped its kidswear selection in a trial move away from the “shrinking” branded menswear market.

Amaia Arrieta, owner of kidswear brand and retailer Amaia in London, says parents will still invest in quality. “Brand is becoming less important, and if they find something really nice in terms of design and quality that did not cost a fortune, they are proud of it,” he explains.

But it’s not all straightforward. As revealed by Drapers this week, long-standing Brighton kidswear indie Charlie Barley is closing down as a result of tough trade and widespread discounting by rivals. Niki Hall, founder of kidswear indie Livvy & Tom in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, adds:

“In the present climate, most people

are scaling back their spending habits, so they are just splashing out on one special outfit or piece and then mixing and matching it with cheaper options from value brands such as Tesco or Primark.”

Fiona Bell, owner of premium kidswear brand Their Nibs, agrees: “We have found that people will spend the money if it’s a really special item. The more staple, basic items are the ones that really suffer in a recession because people will either make do or use hand-me-downs.”

while middle-market shoppers have become more selective, luxury kidswear continues to withstand the recession. Department store Harrods unveiled two new rooms to house its kidswear collections earlier this season. Its 60,000 sq ft area for children aged 10 to 16 hosts concessions for brands including Armani Junior, Gucci, Hugo Boss and Paul Smith Junior.

Simultaneously, Selfridges has expanded its children’s section by 20% to 16,000 sq ft and introduced 25 new brands. Selfridges’ Crook says: “Brands such as Armani, Chloé and Gucci present quality, clean design with high-fashion detailing and continue to be popular.”

Children Worldwide Fashion (CWF), which produces kids’ ranges from Burberry, Chloé and DKNY under licence, has launched its first in-house brand for spring 13 to bridge the gap between designer and high street offers.

The French group has created the Billieblush collection for girls from newborn to 12 years old.

“In terms of growth, it is vital that brands are able to offer good value for money,” says CWF spokeswoman Victoria Benaityte. “Parents love to mix higher-end and cheaper items, but they still want something special.

“Consumers are looking for something that’s new. They want the boutique experience and are willing to spend that bit more for it.”

Story in Numbers

£5.12bn - Amount spent on kidswear in the year to September 30 6% Rise in spend on kidswear in the past year

£6.04 - Average price of kidswear in the past year

847.7m - Number of units of children’s clothing sold in the past year

1% - Drop in volume of kidswear bought in the past year

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