Purchasing with a Purpose

AmericasMart buyers can take good work to heart
By Mandy Roth

Today’s consumers expect more from the companies they buy from and the products they use in their homes. They desire attributes beyond function and beauty; they want to make the world a better place by purchasing products with a purpose. Many AmericasMart exhibitors include philanthropy as a major tenet of their businesses, offering end consumers an opportunity to contribute to a greater good.

Half United; Full Commitment
Half United founders Carmin Black and her brother Christian didn’t set out to better the world through their professional lives. Yet that is exactly the path they now navigate. Each purchase of one of their company’s apparel items or accessories provides food to hungry children. To date, their customers have made possible more than 200,000 meals for children in the United States and around the world.

“Everything we’ve been through in life led us to this point,” says Carmin, a former television reporter, who later worked as a public speaker for TOMS—the company that set new standards in corporate philanthropy by donating a pair of shoes to needy kids for each pair purchased.

All elements of her past coalesced during an enthusiastic speaking appearance. She recalled memories growing up as a pastor’s daughter in a family where every male member was in the clergy, as well as her mother’s endeavors in the fashion industry. She remembered the mission trips in which she and her brother participated. She was reminded of her service as her sorority’s philanthropic chairperson. The energy created by the combination of charity, business and brand passion fused for her in front of that audience. It was one of those moments that changed everything that happened next.

She placed a call to Christian, who was in L.A. trying to launch an apparel business, suggesting that they join forces to create a company with a charitable focus. They borrowed $200 from their mother and the venture has grown in the years since. They now sell a variety of goods, including jewelry and T-shirts. Some of their most popular items feature recycled bullet casings, turning a symbol of harm into a sign of hope, representing their fight against hunger.

TOMS, Carmin believes, cracked the code that unites business and philanthropy by communicating the impact each consumer has on the world by buying one of their products. For Half United, that unique formula means that each time a product is purchased, seven children receive meals. “Hunger is something every human can relate to,” says Carmin.

The founders closely vet the charities they work with around the world. On a trip to Haiti, for instance, they examined the operations of Papillion Enterprise, an organization that employs local artisans to make some of the jewelry Half United sells, providing a source of income so impoverished parents can feed their children.

Carmin insisted on accompanying one of the workers home, a journey down dirt roads and over a ravine filled with trash and goats. They eventually entered a shantytown, navigating four-foot wide alleys through the shacks. When they arrived at the worker’s home, the mother shifted a plywood door to the side, proudly showing off her kitchen, featuring charcoal on a dirt floor. “Where do you sleep?” queried the entrepreneur. The woman revealed a second room where her children slept on packing materials—the same ones used by the charitable organization to ship jewelry to Half United. “My heart hurt for them,” says Carmin, who purchased proper mattresses for the family before leaving the country.

While Carmin and her brother are literally in the trenches at times, she points out that the retailers who sell Half United’s products—and the consumers who buy them—are the ones making the difference. “You have no idea how much your purchase matters in the lives of people around the world. Ultimately, you are the ones feeding people; we just facilitate that transaction.”

Sari Bari: Rescue From the Red Light
When secondhand saris gain new life as accessories and home goods, the women in India who make these products secure access to freedom from lives in the sex trade. The extraordinary goods available through Sari Bari offer employment opportunities for women who want to escape the red light district of Kolkata, India, as well as young women in outlying villages, who are vulnerable to being trafficked.

Each blanket, handbag, accessory or baby item is sewn using the traditional Kantha stitch, unique to the creator’s personal style. No two pieces are identical. Living in India, Sari Bari founder Sarah Lance established the company a decade ago when she personally witnessed the plight of these women and determined she would do something to make a difference in their lives. Goods are sold in the U.S. through a non-profit organization.

Today’s consumers are interested in one-of-a-kind products and want to know the stories behind the things they purchase, explains Merilee Rowe, the company’s sales and operations manager. Sari Bari deepens that connection because the 120 women the company employs stitch their names inside the items they create. During their first year of training, they are known generically as “Mukti.” After the first year, each graduates to using her own name. Their “freedom birthday” is celebrated annually, and employees are given opportunities to rise into management, providing further opportunities for a better life.

“Sari Bari products are special because retailers and consumers know the products are directly tied to impacting a women on the other side of the world,” says Merilee. “That artisan is creating something beautiful, and you are empowering her to do that by purchasing her product.”

Imagine Home: Third World Artisans; First World Designs
When interior designer Staci Lantz toured South Africa with the founder of TOMS Shoes in 2007, she was inspired by his company’s commitment to social responsibility. She returned with a new plan for her life, an idea to add a greater sense of purpose to her profession and an approach to American consumerism that would contribute to the betterment of others.

She’s spent her time since touring the world, meeting artisans in communities where she could source creations conceived by her, along with her design partners. The result is Imagine Home, a collaborative effort between third-world artisans and first-world designers.

The company takes first world product designs and commissions impoverished people in artisan communities around the world to handcraft the items. “By using our industry experience in design, we create a product that is desirable to consumers; by commissioning people in need, we create an income-generating opportunity for them,” according to Imagine Home’s website. The 2016 collection includes lighting, rugs, tabletop, upholstery and bedding from Haiti, Peru, Africa and India. Many items feature 100 percent organic and recycled materials. Also in the line-up: hand-knitted baby alpaca bedding and handsome horn and bone products.

“Staci has spent time in each of the communities we work with, as well as with each artisan, developing the product with them,” says Katie Gable, Imagine Home’s showroom manager at AmericasMart. “Instead of purchasing a product that is mass produced, each item we offer is individually created by someone’s hand. The buyer may never meet the artisan, but there is a connection back to them and you are contributing to the economy in their communities across the world.”

Stephen Joseph: A Connection with Kids
When Rick Taylor, president of Stephen Joseph, returns home each evening, he has a wonderful reminder of the good things his company is doing in the world. His daughter was adopted from a Russian orphanage that his business supports through its philanthropic efforts.

Giving back is something this company takes seriously. Established 30 years ago as a sorority products specialist, it grew and diversified over time into a variety of businesses. Stephen Joseph is the parent company, as well as the name of its successful kids lifestyle brand. In 2013, executives decided to bolster the business’ charitable endeavors, and sought to support organizations that focused on kids. One recent initiative raised $250,000 from the sale of certain products, with donations contributed to No Kid Hungry, Children’s Scholarship Fund and Little Kids Rock.

Stephen Joseph

Stephen Joseph

Karma, the company’s lifestyle brand, which features popular handbags, accessories, home and travel products, gives five percent of its gross sales to numerous charities, including the Russian orphanage. Other endeavors include providing filtered water in Nepal; paying teacher’s salaries a school in a poverty stricken area of Cambodia; and supporting Food Backpacks for Kids, which provides weekend food to kids in need. In addition to special projects, the company makes ongoing donations to organizations such as the American Diabetes Association.

“Given the choice between two similar products, if one has a ‘give back’ component, it affects the end-consumer’s buying habits,” says Rick. “It’s a selling point for buyers to communicate information about where a portion of consumers’ money is going.” While the executive is enthusiastic about all the charities his company supports, the ones that tug at his heartstrings are focused on children. “We love kids,” he says. “They don’t have the ability to help themselves, so we are passionate about helping them.”


For more information: Imagine Home; Half United – halfunited.com; Sari Bari – saribari.com; and Stephen Joseph – stephenjosephgifts.com

Images courtesy of Stephen Joseph, Sari Bari and Half United

Pearl Glam

A fresh perspective on a classic accessory
By Poormina Apte

Accessory Drawer

Accessory Drawer

You can credit Chanel or Jason Wu. Or Downton Abbey. Whatever the reason, pearls are enjoying a renewed interest and dominating lookbooks and fashion runways. But these aren’t your grandmother’s staid single strands. Mixed with a variety of other jewels and worked onto unexpected canvases such as leather and metals, pearls are being reimagined for the contemporary woman.

While this is good news for fashionistas everywhere, the expansive variety of pearls means retailers need to know what to look for and how to tell real from faux, with both having favor. We dive into the basics.

The Basics
Naturally occurring pearls are increasingly rare. Most of those on the market are cultured pearls, derived when farmers artificially introduce irritants into oysters and mollusks. Cultured pearls are further subdivided by the types of waters in which they sourced: saltwater or the more common freshwater. Pearls also are classified by the regions in which they are cultured. Examples include Akoya pearls from Japan; South Sea grown in large saltwater tropical oysters; and Tahitian pearls.

Then there are glass beads that are polished and coated to look like pearls. This thin coating eventually wears off so retailers are advised to source their pearls from reputable vendors. The Cultured Pearl Association of America recommends sliding the strand across your mouth as a test, fake pearls glide while the real ones are gritty from the nacre or the irritant around which the pearl forms.

The Criteria

Kinzig Design Home

Kinzig Design Home

Traditionally, best pearls are perfectly round, have a high lustre and are free of imperfections. Of various factors used to evaluate pearls, lustre is the most important according to Susie Kinzig of Kinzig Design who has ventured into creating jewelry.

Other criteria include surface, shape, size and color. While freshwater pearls often come in irregular forms, they are creatively worked into creative designs and offer a fresh spin, says Kinzig, who works pearls into industrial romantic kinds of designs for an updated contemporary touch.

The Updates
Celebrity stylist and jewelry expert Michael O’Connor, cites an interest in past eras (Mad Men, anybody?) as driving pearl demand, which in turn translates into vintage inspirations on the runways an in top fashion houses. But today’s look is more “in-your-face” he says.

Girl With A Pearl

Girl With A Pearl

Girl With A Pearl’s Bohemian line work pearls into leather and suede for looks that can be dressed up or down. Pearl blogger India Rows says chainmail styles with pearls are another look retailers should look for when searching for new products.

For example, Deniz Zizzi of Accessory Drawer sees designers such as Beth Greenberg mixing pearls with sterling silver chains.

“We think the pearl is the perfect touch to our handmade jewelry, taking something vintage and turning it into something new and fresh,” says Laurel George of The Vintage Pearl.

These fresh perspectives make pearls more attractive to women who used to dismiss them strictly as old-fashioned jewelry. And while pearls can be expensive, pieces with single pearls or freshwater options worked into leather lariats or sterling silver can be surprisingly affordable as well as fashionable.

“Women wear pearls with T-shirts, flowy blouses and cocktail dresses from brunch and work to an evening event,” Zizzi says, “Nowadays pearls are an everyday basic that fit effortlessly in the jewelry closet.”


For more information: Accessory Drawer – accessorydrawer.com, 888.209.8432; Girl With a Pearl – girlwithapearl.com, 615.767.1972; India Rows – 706.850.5296; Kinzig Design – kinzigdesign.com, 650.952.6006; Michael O’Connor – styleandsubstance.com; The Vintage Pearl – 918.935.3254; thevintagepearl.com

Images courtesy of Accessory Drawer, Girl With A Pearl, Kinzig Desig and The Vintage Pearl

Emerging Designer Spotlight: Tepuy Activewear

Tepuy ActivewearEach February and August, Atlanta Apparel welcomes a fresh crop of designers ready to take the next step into the wholesale marketplace. The Emerging Designer Showcase on Floor 2 is a hotspot of talent where you can be the first to discover the newest apparel and accessory lines poised to make their mark on the world.

Three years ago, designer Elena Carné started Tepuy Activewear in Miami, working in her garage. “I sensed there were deficiencies of fashionable fitness and athleisure wear,” said Carné. “I also saw a lack of American made, designed and produced activewear and I wanted to fill that void.” With previous experience working with Spandex in bathing suits, she understood the textiles and materials needed for her designs. Since then, Carné moved her family and her business to Americus, Ga., where her line is produced in a large manufacturing facility.

Tepuy Activewear“My business partner and I visited AmericasMart on a couple of occasions,” said Carné. “When we discovered the Emerging Designer program, we knew that was where we needed to begin.”

Debuting at August 2016 Market, Tepuy Activewear was voted the favorite Emerging Designer. During Market they met with prospective customers from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and more. “It was a great opportunity to connect with other new designers and encourage and support one another,” said Carné.

 

 

Q & A with Emerging Designer Elena Carné

Elena Carné, Tepuy Activewear A graduate of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Carné draws from her South American roots to create vibrant, colorful patterns constructed with high-quality, durable fabrics. The line includes leggings, sports bras, shorts and tanks, all produced in Americus, Ga.

What’s the best piece of business or design advice that you’ve received?
Keep blocking and tackling! One of my business advisors suggested I hold true to my vision even when others try to sway me, because I feel it is the correct path. Sometimes it is not easy because you have to make difficult decisions. As a designer and woman entrepreneur I have a vision and I will keep focusing on improving and growing my business by always getting the “small things right”…in other words blocking and tackling.

What’s next for you?
We plan to find experienced sales representatives to help us promote and sell our brand. We will continue to meet people, make contacts and network. I firmly believe that you must always be consistent with what you are doing and find the joy in it. Be proud of yourself and your work. Through determination, setting goals, God-given talents and personal faith you can fulfill your dreams.


Register today to join us for February Atlanta Apparel. Start the year with your look at top collections featuring Summer, Fashion Accessories, Spring 2, Resort 2, European Fall and Immediates. Temporary categories include Premiere, Ready, NOW, JFA, Impulse, Shoes, Premiere LUXE, Emerging Designer, Resort, Children’s and more.

NEW DATE PATTERN
Showrooms and temporaries will open on Wednesday, February 1, 2017. Temporaries will close on Saturday, February 4 at 3 p.m. and showrooms will close at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 5.

VOTE & WIN
You could win one complimentary night at a downtown hotel during your next Apparel Market just by voting for your favorite Emerging Designer. Check out the collection on Floor 2 and vote today at AmericasMart.com/EmergingDesigner. Share your favorite designer on social media using #EmergingDesignerATL.

5 Tips for Incorporating Resort into Your Product Mix

By Christina O’Flaherty

From a glowing sunset to crashing waves, Resort wear captures the essence and experience of unforgettable travel getaways.

“Every buyer in a boutique is looking for uniqueness and Resort wear in general is the most unique category out there,” says Molly Peterson, brand manager for Walker & Wade. “It’s really open to interpretation and that can bring a lot of life to the floor even if you just incorporate pops onto your floor all year round. It adds that sparkle and freshness that buyers love and that boutiques pride themselves on.”

AmericasMart Atlanta

All For Color

Next week at Atlanta Apparel, Thursday, October 6 – Monday, October 10, you can see the top Resort lines in person and source from their newest inspirations.

“Our latest collection ‘Welcome to the Tropics’ was inspired by our love for warm weather travel,” says Alexandra Chauss, vice president sales & marketing for All For Color. “We wanted to combine the colors and excitement that one would experience when traveling to exotic tropical destinations. This inspiration led us to incorporate a wide range of color into our collection; you will see everything from ocean blue to citrus lime. We took a lot of inspiration from lush tropical landscapes and perfect summer sunsets. We want the customer to be able to get the feel of the ultimate vacay every day.”

AmericasMart Atlanta

DEI

Product inspiration for DEI’s Sea Life Collection came from the coastal community of Cape Cod, MA, explains Marketing Coordinator for DEI, Melissa Ellis. “Surrounded by some of the best beaches in the U.S., Cape Cod is a popular vacation destination. We are inspired by summers spent at local beaches. The creative design team often utilizes the beautiful scenery for onsite catalog photography.”

In addition to their inspirations, we asked representatives from four leading lines to share the inside scoop on their top tips for how you can include Resort in your inventory for added success this season.

1. Tell a story with a vignette.
“Make a dedicated section for Resort styles in the store and tell a story to the customer. Since Resort falls during a time when the weather is still cold, it’s important to show the customer what these pieces are meant for; warm weather escapes,” explains Alexandra Chauss of All For Color. “Create a vignette with complimentary styles and accessories to get the customer in the mood to shop for their upcoming vacation.”

2. Diversify your style selection with versatile pieces: tunics, dresses, shorts, etc.

Atlanta Apparel

Walker & Wade

“Resort apparel should be loose fitting and comfortable. Versatility is very important. Kaftans are great for a day at the beach and can be paired with pants for evening attire. Sunglass readers and sarongs are a great extension of Resort apparel,” says Melissa Ellis of DEI.

“Our mantra is beach to table. Our looks take you from day to night—throughout your day and then have you looking completely chic for any evening or event,” says Molly Peterson of Walker & Wade. “It doesn’t have to be put in just a Resort wear box. You can merchandise it with your denim, your white tanks, or throw a jean jacket over a top. A lot of things can be worn as dresses or as tunics.”

3. Don’t forget shoes and accessories to appeal to a greater audience.
“Women have an average of 10 handbags and 40 pairs of shoes in their closet,” says Stephanie A. Wolf of Jack Rogers. “Have you ever heard a woman say, ‘I have too many shoes, handbags and jewelry’? Never! It’s the trifecta to completing a great outfit. Many times a woman just needs to freshen up her Resort clothing and new accessories do the trick. It makes her feel like a million bucks!”

4. Consider which Resort locations are nearby and select inventory to match your area’s aesthetic.
“Bright colors, pineapples and palm leaves do well in the South. Seashells and sea creatures are popular on all coasts. Nautical ropes and anchors are a staple in any lake or ocean region,” says Melissa Ellis of DEI. Keep in mind that other countries have different vibes too. For instance, Bermuda is preppy while Jamaica is more relaxed.

5. Stock quality items but stay on trend.
“We see women loving quality and paying for it as long as they can wear them with many styles and to many occasions,” says Stephanie A. Wolf of Jack Rogers. “We are seeing a large uptrend for boho and it is crossing over into many brands and style categories. In the coming years it will influence the design of clothing, handbags, shoes and jewelry. Coupled with the more casual work and lifestyles of millennials, this boho chic look is more and more mainstream.”

Join us for October Atlanta Apparel to see these Resort lines and many, many more. Visit AmericasMart.com/Apparel for more information and to register today.

For more information: All For Color – 772.219.7584, allforcolorwholesale.com; DEI – 800.430.5665, denniseast.com; Walker & Wade – 917.882.1459 walkerandwade.com;
Jack Rogers – jackrogersusa.com.

Images courtesy of All For Color, DEI and Walker & Wade.

5 Bridal Trends to Watch

By Christina O’Flaherty

Experience exquisite creations come to life September 21 – 23 in Atlanta during VOW  |  New World of Bridal and see some of the latest trends making headlines. What looks will we see brides walking down the aisles with this season?

3D Elements
Extravagant 3D elements are a key trend, with everything from torso embellishments to detailed skirts to full dress applications in statement-making materials on hand.

3d

Romance Couture, Black Label Couture, Romance Couture

 

Fresh Florals
From tiny embroidery and detailed botanicals to bold splashes of flowers, floral patterns in every conceivable shape and style are a defining element for wedding dresses.

floral

Sherri Hill, Andrea and Leo, Precious Formals

 

Cascading Ruffles
Romance is embodied in exquisite layers of sheer organza, lightweight tulle and silk georgette aided by horsehair to retain a cascading effect.

ruffles

Zoey Grey, Enzoani, Allure Bridals

 

Ethereal Sheers
Barely-there sheer overlays create soft silhouettes when paired with illusion straps and sleeves, plunging necklines, and adorned details.

sheer

Aime Couture by Maggie & Shirley, Calla Blanche, Enzoani

 

Hints of Color
The softest hints of color—ivory and blush hues to sweet blues and pinks—lend this ongoing trend a delicate refresh this season.

color

Eleni Elias, PolyUSA, Zoey Grey

 

See all the spectacular trends from the industry’s leading designers for bridal and social occasion on one stage, Wednesday, September 21, for the VOW Fashion Show at 6:15 p.m. (Pre-party at 5:45 p.m.) on the Floor 2 Fashion Runway.

 


Trend analysis information sourced in part from WGSN. All images are copyrighted by AmericasMart® Atlanta.

The History of Who Buys and Why

By Mercedes Gonzalez, owner Global Purchasing Companies

Mercedes GonzalezIt’s not just about trends
Besides knowing what is on-trend, fashion retailers need to understand consumer behavior. Knowing why people buy, what they buy, and how much they are willing to spend (known as consumer price resistance), means understanding where consumers’ values truly lie.

For example, during the financial crisis 2008, people were losing their homes and jobs, but designer shoes, which start at $800, never dipped in sales. Consumers gave up expenses like going out for lunch or taking taxis, but they were not giving up their shoes. They even started shopping at fast fashion retailers, like Zara, and pairing $100 dresses with designer shoes and bags. And guess what? That high-low chic worked and looked great.

But was high-low chic an iconic look of the new millennium? If we take a close look at the whole time period, we see that the common denominator was actually comfort. Every year there was a new crisis: Y2K, 9/11, SARS, the war in Iraq and Anthrax. You get the picture. In times of crisis, people look for comfort; in their clothing (bamboo fabrics), in their footwear (Crocs) and in food. People stopped going out as much and entertained at home. That became the new normal.

Seeing the future
As we examine fashion in this decade, consumers are becoming fatigued on many fronts. Fast fashion is slowly but steadily losing traction. People are tired of walking into a room where everyone is wearing almost the same thing. They are dissatisfied with poor craftsmanship and thinking more about social responsibility when making purchases. They are spending dollars on well-crafted and limited-production items that have an interesting design direction.

Another area of fatigue is the sad or guilt story. Consumers do value items that are ethically made, but there is concern for how genuine these claims are. Even Made-in-the-U.S.A. claims have come into question over items like watches that are assembled in the U.S. but contain parts made overseas.

Which brings me to consumer price resistance. As a rule, it doesn’t matter what things cost you to buy, it only matters what the consumer is willing to pay. There are many factors that go into that judgement, especially the story behind the product. Today’s consumer sees buzz words like “fair trade,” “eco friendly” and “sustainable,” and labels with the maker’s name and photo as the new normal and expects them to be value-adds that don’t correlate to an increase in price. Think about an organic tomato merchandised at Whole Foods in a wood cart with locally made, fresh mozzarella and a hand-painted sign of the farm’s name. You pay top dollar for it because of the story you perceive from the display. Now did you know that Walmart also carries organic tomatoes but at probably half the price?

My end-of-the-year predictions
Boutique retail businesses are thriving. U.S. consumers are not necessarily money-poor, but time-poor. They expect an expert to attend to them during the shopping experience and will pay for it. Investing in properly training your sales staff will be important.
It’s also an election year, and sales typically drop more than normal during the October before the vote. Plan fun, in-store events to help draw customers in, like a how-to workshop that shows them how a favorite summer dress can be layered up for use in winter. I also warn you not to post the slightest hint of anything political.

On the flip side, November should really be an excellent month. Remember, retail is a form of therapy. Consumers who feel relieved from the election will…guess what…go shopping to celebrate, and people who feel sad and depressed over the election, well, they’ll go shopping too. Plan your OTB accordingly.

One last note. Don’t guilt consumers into a purchase. Give them real reasons to buy as opposed to making them feel like they’re doing charity work. Extended store hours, local delivery service, exclusive or limited-edition items, gift wrapping, are just a few touches that bring real value to shopping at your store.

Hear Mercedes Gonzalez speak at August Atlanta Apparel. Visit AmericasMart.com to add her seminars to your Market Plan:
Thursday, August 4:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Capturing the Social Occasion Market
3:30 p.m. ǀ Retail Math

Friday, August 5:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Sweet 15 (Quinceañera)

Room to Grow

Step by step success with a Florida children’s retailer
By Jessica Harlan

When Kelly Leigh couldn’t find the clothing styles she wanted for her son, she did what any entrepreneurial-minded mom might only dream of doing: she opened her own children’s clothing store.

Getting started
She opened Kelly and Kayden in Windermere, Fla., in fall 2015, and quickly discovered that running her own store was far different than managing others. “Working for other industries, I knew my customer and I knew what our brand and focus was,” says Leigh. “But when I started this new adventure, it was unknown.”

But not entirely unfamiliar: she’d been dressing her niece, now 12, as well as friends’ kids for years, and as a new mom herself, she had a specific idea of what design aesthetic she wanted in her shop. “My approach is fashion forward and sophisticated,” she says. “Nothing too frilly, no cartoon characters and no visible branding. It’s clothes that you could buy for great family photos.”

She also has to take into account Florida’s unique climate and customer base. “We have so many people from all different backgrounds,” says Leigh. Plus, she has to choose comfortable fabrics for the hot, humid Florida weather: cotton or other soft fabrics and sleeveless styles are an emphasis. Because she likes to be able to touch and personally inspect everything she carries, most items are bought at AmericasMart and other gift markets.

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Finding the right mix
Leigh has worked hard to finesse her assortment of merchandise. Her layette department is 10 percent; baby products such as toiletries, towels and diaper bags is 5 percent; boys’ and girls’ clothing is 50 percent; jewelry and accessories is 20 percent; shoes is 5 percent; and toys is 10 percent.

Originally her vision was to stock clothes in sizes from newborn to size ten. “Kids have such an opinion around the age of 10, and I didn’t want to address that.” But her big girls’ area has already doubled, and she’s buying sizes up to 16 at the request of her customers, who are looking for cute age-appropriate clothing.

Another area that has grown was hair bows. As a mom to a boy, Leigh was skeptical when her sales rep extorted her to carry them. “She told me that stores can pay their rent just on hair bow sales.” But she listened and now her famous “hair bow bar” stretches seven feet.

Planning for the future
As far as pricing goes, Leigh describes her range as “fairly priced.” Merchandise starts at around $5 and goes up to several hundred dollars for higher-end items like formal wear or communion dresses. “I think if you have a wide range of prices, you don’t single out a particular buyer,” she says.

While toys only comprise about a tenth of her merchandise assortment, they’re an important component. “Toys are easy gifts, and they complement the buying people do here,” says Leigh. She carries educational and high quality brands, such as Melissa & Doug and Jellycat plush animals. And the toys make for fun cross merchandising.

Currently Leigh is her store’s sole employee, but she has big plans for the future. “I see our store becoming one of the leading children’s stores in central Florida,” she says. She’s hoping to have an online shopping platform up and running this summer. Other than that, she plans to “perfect what we have” before taking any more steps to grow.

Read more about Kelly and Kayden in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For information visit kellyandkayden.com or call 407.217.6902.
Photography by Forever Wild Images.