The Biz: Feature Articles

Shark Tank has been a Friday night viewing tradition of mine since its premier in August, 2009. Many children’s businesses have been on the program, so it is also a favorite for our industry. Recently, Betsy Johnson and her brother Berry Wanless pitched the “Sharks” to invest in their SwimZip brand of protective designer sunwear for a $60,000 investment and a percentage of equity ownership.

In February, we celebrate love on Valentine’s Day and our country’s leadership on Presidents’ Day. For retailers, it’s a season for fun gifts and personal presents that show affection in all degrees, from puppy love to lifelong commitment. Make the season a reason to find new gifts for your store. Here I present one handful of finds that I love…

The 111th annual American International Toy Fair® is running from February 16-19, 2014 (Sunday-Wednesday) at New York’s Javits Convention Center. Retailers, inventors, businesses of all sizes, distributors, manufacturers, and anyone with anything to do with the children’s toy market will descend on one of the biggest shows ever. After its 2013 record-smashing show, attendees can expect the best in products and the serious consideration of global companies. A peek at exhibitors reveals that Smart Games and Toys, Ubooly, Shure Products, and Super Impulse will all make an appearance.

Kids in Distressed Situations, Inc. (K.I.D.S)

How many times have you used the phrase “fashionably late”? At one point or another, we’ve all had visions of wearing something fabulous and making a grand entrance in a room full of people. And when you’re the one wearing the clothes, swanning in late could be a great way to get noticed. But when you’re the one making the clothes, tardiness is the best way to ensure you’ll be overlooked. “Late” is a dirty word in the wholesale world; however, being on time can help you clock more sales.

Kids have their own way of looking at their environment, in large part due to their imaginations. For example, in the child’s mind, the terror of the monster in the closet might have been a cute character from a comic book when the lights were on — but now it has changed into a grim ghoul. Families have been challenged by children’s fears, and more than one parent has spent the night sitting up next to an anxious child’s bed. But now parents have a new champion: Vicki Sewell, author and creator of The Magnificent Sprinkles. Sewell just experienced a strong showing at the AmericasMart in Atlanta, where her plush critters and storybook garnered serious attention.

“They are very soft, daddy.” This testimonial by a small boy lasers in on the primary focus of Lucky & Me undergarments: comfortable, breathable foundational pieces that make parents happy and little kids want to share their enthusiasm. Rochelle Perera, co-founder of Lucky & Me, set out to create undergarments that were soft, comfortable, and safe. She found a ready audience. “We’ve had a great response from the customer – parents who appreciate high-quality products love Lucky & Me underwear,” Perera exclaimed. Lucky & Me undergarments are all about the child’s comfort. They are tagless and the elastic trims don’t tug or pull at the skin.

Teeny Tiny Optics

Do crabs fly? What do dogs think about the secrets kids whisper into their ears? When a little one scribbles wildly colorful lines and circles, is there a hidden meaning? Run these thoughts by your customers and take note –– at first their eyebrows may rise, but once they get their hands on the whimsical clothes from Doodle Do, shopping will move into high gear. Children’s imaginations inspire every garment and accessory this British company produces. Designed to bring out the extraordinary that lurks in every youngster, these are clothes for youngsters who need to play, run and simply hang out in garments that are comfy no matter what.

Kids are dirt magnets. Between dropped pacifiers, chewed-up toys, and snack-time on the floor, parents need to be one-step ahead of babies and germs. This is part of the reason why a growing number of child products are developed from silicone. Already known for its many industrial and medical uses, silicone brings an added dimension of safety and durability to kids’ products. From the innovative teething devices at Mello & Co. and RaZbaby to the products from ChooMee and 5 Oceans International that make mealtime a snap, silicone is helping parents keep kids cleaner and safer than ever before.

Artsy types wanting to make money from their creative talents can now jumpstart their ventures with Kickstarter. Getting public funding for mass production allows creators to realize their dreams while allowing retailers to line their shelves with new products. As spring arrives, offer your earthy types the UltraCompact baby carrier from Bitybean. Help families talk directly to kids through their toys with Toymail Co. The designer of the newest plush pocket pals at Poketti is a kid herself, raising money for her animal toy line. MinkeeBlue has taken the weight off women’s shoulders by offering one bag for every situation.