Apparel

The children's clothing industry is past its pandemic growing pains

Sales in the US hit $34 billion last year and are expected to reach $40 billion in 2021.
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Dopple

· 3 min read

Promises of a new back-to-the-office wardrobe might still be months (?) away, but for parents with kids back in the classroom, it’s been an opportunity to channel their fashion fancies.

Dopple, a childrenswear subscription service that raised $9.8 million in seed funding in April, has seen 2021 revenue grow 5x from last year, CEO Chao Wang told Retail Brew. (She declined to share specific figures.)

“People haven’t had the chance to actually—whether it’s for themselves or for their children—wear normal clothes, so that’s the biggest thing that we’ve seen,” Wang said.

  • Dopple partnered with Bonpoint, a luxury childrenswear brand, to add more high-end items to its boxes ahead of the back-to-school season for upscale occasions like picture day.
  • Pajamas and comfort clothing are still hot-ticket items, Wang noted, but the category has dipped from its pandemic highs.

One advantage the industry has is that parents are constantly buying clothes for their kids, explained Sucharita Kodali, principal analyst at Forrester.

“There isn’t much high-quality children’s clothing. There are exceptions...but many are not made to last so they can get price points low,” Kodali said. “Frequency of purchasing is higher because kids outgrow their clothes so quickly, but the market size of children’s clothing is much smaller than adult apparel.”

  • Childrenswear sales in the US reached $34 billion last year—and it’s predicted to grow to $40 billion in 2021, according to Mordor Intelligence. The overall US apparel market, meanwhile, is expected to top $523 billion this year, per eMarketer. 

Present meets past: Kodali noted that kids’ apparel is now very much influenced by streetwear, pointing to Nike, Lululemon, and Golden Goose as examples.

Oshkosh B’Gosh picked up on that same trend: The childrenswear company teamed up with lifestyle brand Kith in September on an exclusive collection. Jeff Jenkins, EVP of global marketing at Carter’s (Oshkosh B’Gosh’s parent company), described the collab as a “classic meets modern partnership,” combining Oshkosh’s nostalgic workwear aesthetic with Kith’s contemporary design elements.

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  • The collection is also part of Oshkosh’s new creative campaign, which is aimed at millennials, who, in 2018, were parents to 50% of the kids in the US, per the National Retail Federation.

“We thought, what better time to launch than when parents are shopping and looking to elevate wardrobes for their babies, toddlers, and kids,” Jenkins said. “In order to stay top of mind with the next generation of parents, we’ll continue to align with the brands, artists, and celebrities who shape culture.”

Can you keep a secret?

One unique facet of the childrenswear industry is that styles, for the most part, don’t really go out of fashion, explained Janie and Jack President Shelly Walsh. (Dopple’s Wang echoed the same sentiment.)

That’s one reason the kidswear brand, which Gap Inc. sold to Go Global Retail earlier this year, keeps its focus on classic designs. It’s still got eyes on emerging trends, but they need to make sense for Janie and Jack.

“We do take most of our inspiration from trends in the men’s and women’s markets,” Walsh said. “If you were to go into our store online, you would see that our pallets are very sophisticated and they would align with high-end women’s brands. We’ll hear a lot of women will say, ‘I wish that this was in my size.’”

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