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December 2003 | Vol. II - No. 12


Specialty Retailers Make Room for Children´s Furniture


“I think you see a lot of high-end designers now doing children’s lines because it’s a growing area. It is one of the fastest growing [furnishing] markets,” said Andrea Edmunds, president of PoshTots, a retailer of children’s furnishings.

Edmunds´ opinion is backed up by sales figures. Home Accents Today reports that results for the first quarter of 2003 showed “a continued collective improvement in figures of publicly held suppliers of juvenile home furnishings. Retailers [also] seemed to feel that, despite a recent economic downturn, they were still in a solid category for growth.”

“We have noticed more and more traditional, upscale toy stores getting into decorative accessories," said Kelly Mariotti, president of Green Frog Art, a manufacturer of unique children’s furnishings. "So much so, that we have decided to show at Toy Fair this year.”

Green Frog Art Beaded Lamps

GUND (ToyDirectory) also thinks children’s furnishing and toys go hand-in-hand. Michael Carlisle, a principle in the Wildflower Group, a licensing agent for GUND, says the company is in the process of developing a children’s furnishings line. “There is no doubt it is a growing segment," said Carlisle. "It’s a natural next step to complete what GUND offers for children.”

Will It Work In My Store?

“Something like this could be a break for some chains and independents that are really going to jump in and capitalize,” said Jon Schallert, retail marketing consultant and president of The Schallert Group, Inc. For retailers pressed for space, Schallert advised, “Better than a catalog would be a big screen television with a DVD playing pictures and music of the full line to get the "wow" factor.”

"Specialty retailers are a core part of the GUND business,” said Carlisle. “This [trend] may open doors to new retailers in the furnishing sector." He believes that many specialty retailers will find creative ways to display children´s furnishings despite limited square footage.

Will It Work at Home?

Earl Wang, vice president of product development for Lea Industries, one of the top U.S. producers of children’s furniture, agrees that square footage is an issue, not just for the store but for the consumer, too. “In talking with retailers recently, they say customers are basically looking at a 10’x12’ closet and trying to fit in a home office, entertainment center and bedroom,” he said.

Wang believes the growth in the market is in stackable units--creative shelving and multifunctional accessorie--such as hangers and baskets. Wang also feels there is a void of products available for the Tween/teenage market, as well as unisex styles, which could be areas of growth for toy departments and specialty stores.

Leah’s creative team is introducing “clirty” hooks for the sides of their dressers as a place for kids to hang those sweatshirts not yet ready for the hamper, but not clean enough to stick back in the drawer. Wang believes the growth will be more in the functional than the cutesy and theme-oriented, although there is a market for both.

Pennie HooverWriter's Bio: Pennie, a graduate of Indiana University School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and lives with her husband and three children in Visalia, Calif. Read more articles by this author


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