Kidswear has got a new designer outlet - and it’s made with mothers in mind.
As they talk to Drapers, sitting on tiny green plastic chairs around a children’s colouring table, Rachel Mawby and Frances Bishop, the enthusiastic duo behind independent kidswear designer outlet Pud, realise they have taken on a new shop every month since October 2014.
Their most recent one was a pop-up, now closed, but that still leaves three. The latest permanent store is in Doncaster, a compact 475 sq ft space less than 170 yards from the city’s Frenchgate shopping centre. The shop is located in what was once the King’s Arcade. Developer Lazarus Properties has spent about £500,000 creating eight units to attract smaller businesses after it fell vacant following the closure of a Poundstretcher store in 2010.
The pair quickly brought their own approach to Pud, which opened on February 7. The large glass storefront currently hosts the first of its regular themed displays. The focus for this one is on spring cleaning, with plant pots and bright yellow marigolds suspended from dangling chains.
What becomes instantly apparent is that what the two lack in spending power, they make up for in motherly instinct. “When I’m in a shop and I go to pay, my two-year-old wants to be doing stuff. So our till area is one massive chalkboard,” says 23-year-old Bishop, who, like her 40-year-old business partner, has no previous retail experience.
“By giving the little ones chalk and letting them go crazy it gives us time to sell more and build a relationship with the customer. We don’t want parents to have to say ‘Don’t touch that’.”
This thinking extends throughout the store, from the concise organisation of stock - which comprises leftover previous season designer clothing from the likes of Harrods, Selfridges and French Connection arranged by occasion, gender and age - to the clutter-free layout that can accommodate even
the widest of double pushchairs.
Unlike many kidswear stores that are awash with brash, primary colours, at Pud the eggshell walls are complemented by dark wood-effect linoleum flooring and brick-effect wallpapered pillars. Current retail prices range from £4.99 for leggings by Not So Bad to £25 for dresses by Couché Tot.
A 900 sq ft outlet in Nottingham, which opened just two weeks after the Doncaster store, is also receiving this treatment. The larger space has allowed the addition of a private feeding room for mothers, whether they are customers or not.
“It’s common sense for a kidswear shop to be feeding-friendly. When you feed your child anywhere, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, you feel obliged to buy something. That’s not our aim. It’s about giving mums a place to feel comfortable, but it is also a business idea because it will increase spend.”
Pud started online in January 2014, originally trading as Chunk before changing to Pud one year on to avoid confusion with the Chunk streetwear label. Its success led to the opening of its debut store in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, in October. The following month, another opened in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.
Despite doubling their floor space in 30 days, demand continued to outweigh what the two friends could deliver, so they launched a pop-up in Nottingham city centre in December, originally intended to run until January.
The Epworth store closed in December due to damp, but the pair ploughed ahead with ambitions to make their Nottingham presence permanent by moving their pop-up to a vacant space next to a Vivienne Westwood shop inside the Flying Horse Walk shopping arcade in January. Come February, they were back in the property agent’s office, picking up the keys for the Doncaster store.
When Drapers speaks to the enthusiastic duo again, a little more than a week later, they are in York looking at property number four, having just beat TK Maxx to sign an exclusive deal with kidswear brand Lily & Sid to sell their sample stock across all stores.
“Some people say we’re expanding too fast,” explains Bishop, “but we think if there’s a demand for it, we’ve got to go for it and be an example for other independents.”