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.
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.
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.