When England's celebrated footballer David Beckham arrived at JFK airport in New York City recently, the media was glued to him and his children. The reports that were carried the following day enthusiastically mentioned Beckham's young daughter Harper and her chic dress. Beckham's son Romeo has already been dubbed as a fashion prodigy.

These two are not the only children who have made it to the most coveted list of stylish celeb kids. Star kids like Kingston Rossdale, Zuma Rossdale, Suri Cruise and Shilloh Pitt have their own style. These days, the cute quotient of a child is not defined merely by innocence. It embraces style, clothes and attitude. While luxury kidswear brands in developed countries have been around for some time, in developing nations like China and India, parents have just begun exploring lux for kids.

Taking baby steps

According to the report Growing market for branded kids-wear in India by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the kidswear market in India is progressing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20 per cent. This makes India one of the fastest developing markets for the segment.

The market is predicted to reach 95,000 crore by 2016 and this stupendous growth is the result of rise in kidswear demand in tier-II and tier-III cities of the country. Another factor that has immensely contributed to the growth is the increasing number of double-income families in urban India. With rising purchasing power, parents in India do not hesitate to make splash into luxury kidswear brands. The market for local children's wear shops has also become vulnerable as brand consciousness catches up. The conventional approach to kidswear shopping that chiefly involved street shops and other small shops, has changed. Today there are exclusive branded stores for kidswear.

Prospects for designer kidswear labels are also bright in China. The country's one child policy has played a major role in changing the attitude of parents towards their children. Fulfilling the only child's needs has become significant for parents, leading to indulgence in buying luxury kidswear. China is also the most sought after country for luxury brands. According to the China Research Centre for Children's Industry, the overall luxury market growth in China has been smooth and impressive in the last few years, which reflects on the luxury kidswear market as well.

The projected baby boom between 2011 and 2021 estimates that the under-16 population in China may grow over 400 million, which will further strengthen the kidswear segment. The paced growth of kidswear industry in the Asia-Pacific region, mainly in India, Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and China is estimated to result in fastest growth rate of 5.3 per cent through 2017.


The big picture

The global kidswear market is predicted to reach US$ 173.6 billion by 2017 at CAGR of 4.2 per cent. With the exception of India, the global market has witnessed mounting demand in the 8-12 years age bracket. In India, kidswear demand in the age group of 0-2 years is on the rise. The inclusive growth of kidswear and luxury brands in the sector can be attributed to developed nations. Even as India and China present an appealing picture for luxury kidswear, it is Europe and the United States that account for major consumers of global kidswear. Growing income of middle class families, children's influence on parental decision, smart marketing and advertising by brands and increase in international travel have paved the way for luxury kidswear brands.

Brands in business

When the first Global Kids Fashion Week was organised in London two years ago, it received a mixed reactions from critics and the media. Bouquets and brickbats aside, this fashion week made it clear that luxury brands in kidswear have arrived.

The competition in the apparel market is fierce, but this rule does not apply to the kidswear segment. Unlike adult luxury apparel brands that have been around for long, the bigwigs of the fashion world have started exploring opportunities in kidswear only a few years back. Gucci, Armani, Fendi, Zara, GAP, Dior, Burberry, Woodland, Marks & Spencer, Arrow, Allen Solly, Reebok and Puma are some of the brands that are offering clothes for children. Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld recently announced the launch of rock 'n' roll-inspired clothing line in spring 2016 for children up to 16 years of age.

Though kidswear luxury brands first popped up on the scene in developed nations, emerging economies soon followed suit. In India, Armani Junior was launched in 2012 and it is the only dedicated high-end kidswear brand in India that sells apparel and accessories for children in 0-16 years bracket. Guccis kidswear collection is available at its stores in Kolkata, Mumbai and Gurgaon. China has also attracted a swath of luxury kidswear brands. Apart from the high-end brands and mass market brands like Zara and H&M, even home appliance maker Haier has entered China's kidswear market.

Another marketing strategy adopted by kidswear brands is e-retailing. Most of the luxury kidswear brands have opened official stores in various countries. In China alone, approximately 90 per cent kidswear brands have launched official stores. But, considering the growth in e-commerce, many kidswear brands have also introduced corporate websites and partnered with third-party e-commerce websites to sell kids' clothing online.


Win some, lose some

The kidswear market is one of the most stable markets globally. It has remained immune to economic slowdown and even erratic fashion trends have had little to no impact on the kidswear segment. But the rise of the luxury segment has taken its toll on local manufacturers and retailers. Now, besides the affluent income group, middle income households also have been showing interest in luxury brands, which has lowered the sales of local brands. In India, competition from international brands poses a greater challenge for niche kidswear brands like Lilliput and Catmoss in comparison with lesser-known brands.

Nevertheless, Lilliputs strategy to dive into international markets could augur well for the company. The brand has collaborated with companies in China and some other countries. However, options for small retail houses look limited. Working on the quality of clothing and passing on the price benefits to the customer may help their cause.

From the manufacturers ' point of view in India and China, the escalating sale of luxury kidswear is not converting into future stability. The rising labour costs in these two countries have forced international brands to change tracks to Bangladesh. According to the research cell of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), exports of kidswear jumped up by 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2014. Brands like Tesco, IKEA, Marks and Spencer, H&M, Wal-Mart, JCPenny, Zara, G-Star Raw, Uniqlo and Li&Fung have already given fresh orders for kidswear to Bangladesh manufacturers.

For luxury brands, it has been a conscious decision to dabble in kidswear, as this segment is financially viable, offers immense creative freedom and is unaffected by changing fashion trends. The kidswear industry is still in a nascent stage in some of the developing countries such as Thailand and Taiwan, but manufacturers have shown faith in the global reach of the kidswear segment.


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