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US Parents Now Prioritising Quality and Sustainability Over Price

When it comes to shopping for junior, many US parents are willing to pay something of a premium if it ensures that nothing non-sustainable or of an inferior quality enters the nursery, according to exhibitors at the recent ABC Kids Expo.

Photo: Tiny Dreamer: Snug, sleep comfort courtesy of Atlanta-based Pillowsheets.
Tiny Dreamer: Snug, sleep comfort courtesy of Atlanta-based Pillowsheets.
Photo: Tiny Dreamer: Snug, sleep comfort courtesy of Atlanta-based Pillowsheets.
Tiny Dreamer: Snug, sleep comfort courtesy of Atlanta-based Pillowsheets.

Parental innovation met the latest products from industry heavyweights at the recent ABC Kids Expo, North America's largest trade event in the baby and juvenile products sector. Indeed, from toys to apparel to strollers, the show highlighted parenting solutions that, more often than not, chimed with the growing preference for sustainability and high quality – even when they come at a premium price – that now characterises many of the US consumers with an interest in the sector.

Overall, the global baby-products market is expected to be worth US$153 billion by 2025, according to a recent report by San Francisco-based Grand View Research. The report also estimates that the sector will grow by about 5.5% per annum, largely driven by rising birth rates in emerging economies, including India and China, and the increased level of disposable income available to new parents in North America and Europe. The report also cites rising awareness of issues related to infant nutrition, hygiene and safety in developing markets as a contributing factor.

While it may be true that US parents are now willing to spend more, they also expect a better return, a development said to be one of the factors in the success of California-based Venice Child and its range of California Dreaming bassinets. Citing the changes in consumer behaviour that have benefitted the business, Susan Chandler, the company's Head of International Sales and Distribution, said: "With a higher number of parents now moving back to the cities, they want products that fit into a smaller space and have more than one function. Our product, for instance, can be used as a stand-alone bassinet, be fitted next to a parental bed or folded down for travel purposes.

"Overall, parents are not wary of a hefty price tag and tend to be looking for well-designed items that fit in with the interior decor of their homes – with the wooden finish and neutral colours of our bassinet pretty much fitting the bill. With brightly coloured cookie monster designs often hard to co-ordinate with, we pretty much try to keep it all neutral and modern."

Commenting on favoured sales channels, while Chandler conceded it's increasingly important to maintain an online presence, she also noted that a significant proportion of the company's sales still come from brick-and-mortar stores. Analysing just why, she said: "Physical outlets give parents the opportunity to interact with the product and experience its organic bamboo mattress – then they fall in love with it and just have to have it."

Sounder sleep for both kids and adults, meanwhile, was on offer from Atlanta-based Pillowsheets, which was showcasing its Tiny Dreamers crib sheet, complete with sewn-in support, as well a range of other sleep-related products on its well-attended stand. According to company founder Nadya Galloway, she first got the idea for her proprietary range while running a day-care centre where she was continually having to contend with the problem of children who found it difficult to sleep.

Outlining how she came up with her particular solution, Galloway said: "Babies and children always respond to the feeling of being cradled and snuggled, but the current sleep safety recommendations specifically warn about the danger of loose bedding. My product's sewn-in support solves that particular problem.

"We've now expanded the range to include pregnancy sheets with built-in support, while we've also found that a lot of adults, in general, are buying our products to improve their own sleep experience. At the moment, we're also working on a version that will be suitable for use in medical facilities."

At ABC Kids, ideas from parents who once saw a gap in the market have long been an important part of the mix. This year, that particular tradition was being proudly maintained by Cory Listner, a frustrated Texas dad and a chemical engineer who got tired of cleaning up the food and drink his children had spilled in his truck. His solution was Kid Proof – a fabric protectant that uses nanotechnology to seal fabrics and leather.

Reminiscing as to how the product came about, he said: "One day I discovered that, the night before, my kids had spilled milkshake all over the backseat of my truck. I knew then that there had to be a way to deal with it that was both safe for kids and kind to fabric. Although primarily aimed at kids, it's also now making inroads in the pet-care sector."

Photo: Venice Child’s portable bassinet.
Venice Child's portable bassinet.
Photo: Venice Child’s portable bassinet.
Venice Child's portable bassinet.
Photo: Belly vision: Memeeno.
Belly vision: Memeeno.
Photo: Belly vision: Memeeno.
Belly vision: Memeeno.

For Alie Al-Jadda, it was trying to soothe her prematurely-born baby, who suffered from severe bouts of colic, with an old-fashioned belly band that eventually led to her becoming an mumtrepreneur. After her second child was born, she decided to launch her own belly-band – Memeeno – as a way of transforming this rather staid accessory into something stylish and sustainably produced."

Detailing the reception she has received to date, she said: "When I first started the brand, everyone was telling me it was a throwback to our grandmothers' time and that no one used these kinds of band anymore.

"Subsequently, though, parents have been responding very positively to this supposedly old-fashioned way of caring for babies, so I'm quite content to have designed a modern band for the modern mama and her baby. More recently, we've expanded into top-knot hats and swaddle blankets featuring calming pastel designs."

For other innovators in the sector, inspiration came more from the perceived need to up the fashion industry's overall level of environmental responsibility and commitment to sustainability. It was these very concerns that led Salomon Marcos to launch Baby Tiger, a Denver-based company specialising in the manufacture of jeans for the under-threes. When he launched the business, he had three priorities in mind – producing high-quality jeans, selling them at a reasonable price and ensuring there was a socially responsible component in the mix. In line with this, 10% of the purchase price of each pair of Baby Tiger jeans is donated to the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation, a Mexican animal rescue centre. As an indication of their philanthropic credentials, each pair of jeans also comes with a tiny tiger-paw stitched next to the pocket.

Outlining his singular approach to the sector, Marcos said: "Early on, we realised that while many little kids love tigers, no baby-clothing company was helping to support these endangered creatures – at least not until we came along.

"We're now looking to further evolve the idea. This will see us adding shirts and jackets to the range and also collaborating with a wider range of animal-related charities. In future, you'll be able to choose which animal you want to support and we'll put the relevant image on your jeans or shirt, whether it's a tiger's paw, a dolphin's fin or something else entirely."

Photo: The 2019 ABC Kids Expo: A big event with a focus on the little’uns.
The 2019 ABC Kids Expo: A big event with a focus on the little'uns.
Photo: The 2019 ABC Kids Expo: A big event with a focus on the little’uns.
The 2019 ABC Kids Expo: A big event with a focus on the little'uns.

The 2019 ABC Kids Expo took place from 23-25 October at the Las Vegas Convention Center and attracted about 14,000 industry professionals.

Anna Huddleston, Special Correspondent, Las Vegas

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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