Lap of Luxury

With children making up one of the hottest markets around, why not start your own upscale children's product company?

Would you pay upwards of $87 for a hand-knit sweater? How about a really small one likely to be smeared with grape juice and chocolate pudding? You'd be surprised how many people will. If you don't have kids of your own, maybe you haven't caught on to the explosive market surrounding high-end children's products and accessories. Parents, grandparents and friends of the family are demanding hand-crafted, hand-painted furniture; tailor-made, brand-name clothing; and beautiful toys and decorative items for children. And savvy retailers are lining up to provide these luxury shoppers with a satisfying retail experience.

Marketing consultant Leslie Speidel points out that baby boomers are getting older, and many of them are excited grandparents or first-time parents. The disposable income of this demographic is huge, especially for those over 55. "The extravagance is beyond homes and cars," she says. "They're putting status into everything they have."

Recent government reports indicate that the birth rate is increasing along with disposable income. Nearly 4 million babies were born in 1998, with birthrates for women in their 30s up to the highest level in three decades. This baby boom of the older mom means a generation of parents with more disposable income and refined tastes. It also means cribs, dressers, play outfits, hats and beanbags will be in high demand.

Of course, big industry caught whiff of this opportunity a few years ago, and many jumped on the profits bandwagon by developing a baby or kids division of their brand-name products. Already at market are BabyGap, Pottery Barn Kids, GUESSkids, Martha Stewart Baby, and preferred toy vendors like Imaginarium and ZanyBrainy. However, the good news for the adventurous upstart is that there's still room for small players to open their own (online or brick-and-mortar) shops, and cater to all those status- and quality-conscious adults.

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This article was originally published in the December 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Lap of Luxury.

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