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The Long and Short of It

With so many kids wearing off-the-charts sizes, it’s time to offer a wider range of designs for each age bracket.

Long before my son was born, I was quite familiar with how inconsistent sizing could run from one brand to another in the children’s industry.  At our fashion shoots, a 2-year-old toddler would barely squeeze into a size 3 in one brand, and swim in an 18-month outfit by another.

To some degree it’s understandable: Who decides what an average 2-year-old looks like, anyway? After all, some people grow tall, some grow out and some stay petite their entire lives.

On the other hand, there’s an array of new technology on the market to help ensure fit, and, at the very least, sizing should remain similar across a collection. (I can think of a couple of popular brands that retailers reported dropping due to inconsistent sizing.)

I now have first-hand experience with how tricky it can be to find kids’ clothes in just the right size: My 5-month-old son, in the 100th percentile for height, is already wearing some 12-month outfits. Looking ahead, I began shopping for 18-month footies—and discovered they were surprisingly difficult to find. That’s because, I assume, most tots are walking by the time they hit that size and long past the footies phase. I’ve dubbed this #giantbabyproblems.

I’m not the only parent with #giantbabyproblems. At New York City kids’ boutique Torly Kid, Owner Carol Adams loves brands like U Go Girl, which go up to size 16. It’s not because she has a ton of teenage shoppers—it’s because she has lots of tall tween customers who already wear a size 16 but aren’t ready to shop in the junior’s section. Same goes for the younger kids: Adams carries size 7 and 8 Tea Collection dresses for her taller-than-average 5-year-old customers. “I always try and do a little crossover in each department because the styles change pretty drastically from size 6 to 7,” she notes. (To learn more about Adams’ tween-friendly shop, check out our On the Block feature on p. 12.)

Savvy brands have already figured this out. In our November/December 2015 Q&A, Rockin’ Baby Vice President Mark Jeynes told me, “I know from the feedback I’ve received from retailers that there are so few brands making young-looking clothes in bigger sizes.” That’s why Rockin’ Baby offers its playful looks up to a size 10. “I’m not going to lie; I don’t really think we’re selling to a 10-year-old; I think we’re selling to a large 6- or 7-year-old,” he explained.

Chalk it up to improved nutrition or blame it on the obesity epidemic—no matter the cause, it’s undeniable that kids today are quite literally growing up faster than they used to. Retailers and brands would be wise to keep these above-average kiddos in mind when designing a collection or stocking the shelves.

As always, it’s a good reminder to interact with your customers. When a mom walks out of a store because she can’t find a kid-friendly dress to fit her 5-year-old, it’s not just one lost sale. It’s a lost opportunity to develop a loyal customer. In other words, let #giantbabyproblems become your #retailsolutions.

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