Symphony Commerce just got back from the ABC Expo in Las Vegas, NV. Thousands of innovators and manufacturers flocked to the largest children’s exhibitions to show off sleek new designs and eco-friendly products.
Here are the top trends we spotted on the showroom floor.
- Gone are dumpy diaper bags and dorky travel packs: today’s moms and tots are on the go and staying stylish while they do it.
- Environmental impact is top of mind. Organic, green, and BPA-free products got loads of attention.
- Luxury items are hot commodities: from washable merino wool to mahogany building blocks for parents who have the cash to spoil their tots.
- Quality is king. Many products were designed or the founders’ own children. They don’t make anything they would not use for their own family.
Highly Diversified Market
The baby and children’s market appears like a pyramid: at the top are a few mega brands, while the rest of the market is comprised of Mom and Pops selling niche products with low SKUs.
The bigger, savvier brands are characterized by their strong technology and web presence. They already embrace responsive design, and sport sophisticated online merchandising strategies. Their supply chain and fulfillment is either owned or outsourced and they are laser focused on increasing distribution.
On the other hand, we encountered many niche products developed by parents who identified a need for a cool/safe/all natural product for their own family. Less tech and business savvy than their larger competitors, nonetheless, these brands exhibit a high degree of DIY practicality as they balance the demands of an emerging business with the demands of a growing family.
Additionally, the green/organic/safe market has created opportunities for tremendous growth for smaller brands. “Smaller” does not mean unseasoned: many of the brands we spoke to have been operating for 8 – 12 years, but reported facing increased competition from new entrants.
ABC is about discoverability, with brands hoping to sign multiple contracts for wholesale distribution. Both established brands and DIYers reported the same pain point: how to fulfill the massive orders from the shows during the height of the trade show season, which runs through summer and fall. Many brands reported that it would take up to three weeks or more to fulfill show orders, while the backlog continued to build from back-to-back shows in September. Show timing presents a unique challenge because it bumps up against the holiday season.
For brands that are running wholesale and retail operations, inventory management continues to be a challenge. Growing companies struggle to get a unified understanding of the inventory pool. Most merchants reported separate inventory pools, which leads to higher carrying costs without the flexibility of moving popular products into the higher margin retail channel and likewise, moving slow sellers into the wholesale channel. They also identified the need for faster and more reliable shipping, with “free shipping” topping the customer and wholesale requests. Most felt that they were unable to offer free shipping at their current shipping rates.
Overall, brands in this industry face the same growing pains as any other, namely: how to get a holistic view of the entire business and streamline operations. From our experience across our portfolio of brands, including Itzy Ritzy, integrating wholesale and retail operations into one platform is critical for brands to achieve their growth goals.
Additionally, brands can achieve significant shipping and fulfillment savings by partnering with a logistics provider who can both reduce shipping time (for wholesale orders) and reduce shipping costs by tapping into lower negotiated rates. In fact, in a recent webinar from Practical Ecommerce, contributing editor Armando Roggio identified “superb fulfillment management and customer service” and “efficient integrated operations” as two of the critical pillars for brands to scale their ecommerce business.