17501 Fri, 12/11/2009 - 3:28pm
By David Gill
Recent product launches in children’s bedding indicate that home-textiles vendors regard kids as savvy and just as interested as adults in decorating their bedrooms.
This marks something of a transformation in how manufacturers view kids’ bed ensembles. Over the past two decades, the dominant players in this category were those that held the licenses for movies and television shows popular with children. The designs featured characters such as The Little Mermaid, Batman, Elmo and, more recently, GI Joe, presented in bold primary colors on everything from the top of the bed down to accessories.
Characters popular with children still appear in retail bedding departments. However, they now share space with designs, both licensed and non-licensed, that are more sophisticated and more engaging in terms of getting children to think more carefully about how they want their bedrooms to look.
The juvenile lineup of CHF Industries, for example, features licenses that are drawn from a whole new approach to this segment.
“We’ve been very selective about our licenses, and we’re not chasing the movie of the month,” said Joan Karron, CHF’s executive vice president. “We’re focused on long-term relationships with our customers. There will always be a place for media-created licenses, but it’s not where we are now.” She did add, however, that CHF is “open and listening” to an idea for such a license that fits within its more sophisticated orientation.
Examples of CHF’s non-licensed, sophisticated looks include the Loft Style and My Room brands, which Karron said are geared toward both teenagers and “tweens.”
Another industry executive said the trends in kids’ bedding are products that allow customization, personalization and interaction. “Kids want to play a part in decorating their room and things in their room,” the executive said. This has led to designs “tending to be bold, bright, full of color, and there are several themes—tattoo/graffiti looks, gothic, skateboarding, guitar-hero/rock-band looks, sports and animals that always seem to be in.”
The increasing sophistication in juvenile-bed looks has produced designs with a more adult feel, in some cases.
“We see a new authenticity in design, not only for kids but across the board,” said Christopher Cox, vice president of creative and design for Nautica Home.
This season, Nautica Home is returning to traditional/retro looks with updated plaids, ginghams, stripes and polka dots. “The return of Americana with the use of bold color, such as navy, mid-blues and red together with traditional yachting motifs works perfectly for the brand,” Cox added. “As all brands do, we look at the global trends but only pick up on those that are appropriate to our brand.”
Nostalgia has taken hold in children’s bedding in the use of iconic brands. CHF has ventured into this direction with its recently launched Peanuts line. “We grew up with Peanuts and so did our children,” Karron said. This brand “has a tremendous nostalgic impact. Also, we love the graphic, uncomplicated nature of Peanuts art. It feels modern and contemporary.”
The Peanuts brand, while it offers more sophisticated design than other juvenile licenses, shows that licensed products still have a commanding presence in this market.
“Licensed products are down like in all other categories, but this still drives a lot of business,” the industry executive said. “More retailers are selling generic versions of some popular licenses and trying to develop their own to hit a sharper price point.”
Other aspects of the juvenile business, such as retail distribution channels, haven’t changed either.
The industry executive said mass merchants still carry much weight in this product segment. “Department stores don’t have much of a presence and midtier chains are struggling,” he said.
Cox said the major accounts for the Nautica-branded juvenile bedding are in the specialty-store channel, “but we are always exploring new opportunities.”
The momentum that the back-to-school selling season has created in juvenile bedding has continued, according to the industry executive. “There are two categories within this group—high school and college,” he said. “The retailers who address these consumers are seeing stronger performance in kids’ bedding than those who are not participating.”
Karron noted that CHF has addressed this consumer segment with its Blah Blah brand. Developed by Joe Boxer founder Nicholas Graham as part of his efforts to create new brands for CHF, Blah Blah is a back-to-school story that concentrates on college youth, and that could even find its way into the bedrooms of young adults, Karron said.
Looking ahead, Cox said the juvenile-bedding sector “is looking positive as consumers are looking for ways to decorate for their children within their existing space.” He sees the upward swing in the category as particularly beneficial for the Nautica brand is it strives to gain more share in youth-oriented bedding. “The Nautica brand continues to expand, and this translates to growth for the brand as a choice for the consumer in their homes when shopping for their children,” he said.
Even with more sophisticated products on retail shelves, pricing remains a key issue in juvenile bedding, according to the industry executive. “Price points continue to face compression,” he said. “However, more product is being sold bundled (like beds in a bag, sets, etc.) to reduce SKUs and create more convenience and value for the consumer.”