Katherine Gold, CEO of Goldbug, shares details on two new proprietary brands to simplify parents’ lives—continuing the company’s mission for nearly 50 years.
Katherine Gold is a consummate businesswoman. Sure, you can rattle off a string of fancy titles the Colorado native has accumulated over the years—everything from her current position as CEO, owner and president of the 48-year-old business her father, William Gold II, founded years ago to being a past chair of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) and a buyer at both Macy’s and the now-defunct I. Magnin.
But it’s Gold’s business accomplishments that speak louder than any of her aforementioned titles. Since being named CEO in 2012, Gold has overseen sales growth, new launches, expanded categories and has developed new technologies for the brand.
Gold, however, is not riding on her past achievements. The company is introducing two new brands this year. EverUp, a new line of socks with a patented technology silicone application that’s designed to keep knit socks on the tootsies of newborns and up to 24 months, recently hit the shelves. And On-the-Go, a line of travel accessories (including front carriers, child harnesses with leashes, shopping cart and high-chair covers, portable soothers, diaper change kits and nursing covers) makes its debut in stores on May 1.
EverUp socks, available in four and six packs ($12 to $14 MSRP), feature stripes, athletic and airplane designs in neutrals and blues for boys while girls’ styles have a pastel color palette with hearts, rabbits and strawberry motifs. Beyond the fashion appeal, Gold says the socks answer a real need of parents. Specifically, that they remain on thanks to a flexible crisscross silicone band woven into the socks. “It seems like a simple thing, but keeping socks on infants’ feet really can be an annoyance for parents,” Gold says. “All the in-and-out of car seats, strollers, carriers, high-chairs, cribs, etc. Socks have so many opportunities to come off and disappear. So we believe EverUp fills a need.” Gold adds that the company has high expectations for the brand. “From all the feedback we’ve received over nearly 50 years of making infant and children’s socks, we think EverUp will be a big hit,” she says.
The same easy practicality is the premise of Goldbug’s On-the-Go line, which ranges from $10 to $69 MSRP. Crucial details will appeal to new moms such as car seats featuring elaborate head supports, car pads to make clean-up a breeze and inserts on front carriers that can be removed as the baby grows. “It’s really our first foray into our own branded travel products and we are looking forward to putting some of our designs on store shelves with the Goldbug logo on them,” Gold offers, adding, “We’ve partnered with some terrific retailers who really believe in what we are doing, and we’re excited to see the reaction of consumers.”
Overall, Gold says the company’s design mantra is fashion, form and function. Whether it’s shoes, socks, jewelry items or travel accessories (the company holds more than 20 patents) every Goldbug product must deliver on that criteria. “More so than any other category, children’s accessories can’t fall short in any one of these areas,” Gold notes. “Parents and children are busy, and we need to deliver products that recognize this reality and deliver items that make getting through the day just a little bit easier while at the same time making a fashion statement.”
The design philosophy is also a source of great pride as these product segments are fraught with liabilities and require strict safety compliance standards. It’s not easy. It’s also why the company has been around for almost five decades. Goldbug has built a level of trust with its retail partners and consumers. In fact, Gold holds the belief that brand relationships coupled with the agility to innovate and turn on a dime are critical to succeeding in today’s increasingly competitive environment. “Today’s consumer is very tech-friendly and knowledgeable; they can compare and contrast, and they understand value,” she says. “But what they care about is not that different from how parents have always been—issues like safety.”
With decades-long manufacturing under its belt licensing goods for such industry heavyweights as Carter’s, OshKosh B’gosh, Eddie Bauer, Levi’s and Disney as well as Walmart, Macy’s and Babies “R” Us, Gold says a company focus now is beefing up its own branded portfolio to fill perceived gaps in the market.
That doesn’t mean that maintaining licensing agreements is any less important. Gold says the company always puts the partner first and prides itself on the ability to step outside of itself and immerse itself in a brand in order to produce products that are spot-on.
It appears to be working. Despite what is a very challenging retail environment, Gold reports the company had a “very good year” in 2016, both from a revenue standpoint and in terms of deploying new technologies and systems that will make it even more competitive and efficient in terms of sourcing, pricing and fulfilment. “We’re very pleased with where we sit going into 2017,” she says. “We’re going to be very active and looking forward to growing some new areas for the company.”
Goldbug is launching two new brands amid an overall climate of great consolidation at retail. What’s your take on the rash of store closings and how it might impact Goldbug? We are fortunate to have longstanding relationship with our retailers, and we are not contending with significant challenges. That said, the evolution and importance of e-commerce is a definite focus for us so as to support our retail partners in this changing landscape. But it still comes down to providing interesting designs and delivering quality products at a competitive price point. Add to that the need to provide outstanding customer service. The consumer has much more information available to them than they did 10 years ago, and with the ability of customers to write reviews and provide instant feedback—good or bad—retailers have to be much more sensitive and responsive to their customers which, in turn, means we have to be much more sensitive and responsive to our retail customers.
What do you look for in a retail partnership?
Generally, we look for partners that share our core values: integrity, commitment to quality and commitment to the customer. Beyond that, we want to work with partners that want to lead. We place an emphasis on innovation and design. While we want to work with partners who understand the importance of getting the basics right. We also want them to be at the forefront in terms of the types of products they offer their customers. Fortunately, we’ve been able to build relationships with a number of great, like-minded retailers.
Any pressures Goldbug is facing on the wholesale front? We are constantly facing pressure on pricing yet we are expected to deliver quality—both in terms of design and construction—to our customers. Fortunately, this works to our advantage as we have always been focused on design and are broadly recognized for what we bring to the table in that regard. After nearly 50 years in this business, we have established relationships and practices that keep us more than just competitive on price and quality control.
And it’s not just retailers you have to please. Parent and—even tougher—kids, too. What are the attributes that make a Goldbug product kid-friendly?
Kids can be attracted to any number of things. They appreciate products that help them express themselves and offer a level of fun and interaction. It’s funny, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that children become brand-conscious much earlier than we first thought. So, in some regard, brand matters. But ultimately, it has to be fashionable and it has to be functional. If a product is both, kids will not just gravitate toward it, they will make it part of their everyday choices. If it’s missing either, they’ll move past it. The key is to understand what they’ll find fashionable. And that is why I think we’ve got the best team going. They always seem to know what will resonate.
From your perspective, it helps having grown up in the business, no?
It does. There’s a lot of family pride in what my father had built. I’ve always been attracted to creativity and innovation that children’s accessories create. We can do things in accessories that bring together the best aspects of form, fashion and function. Innovative design is an area in which Goldbug has always excelled at and it remains the focal point of our business today.
What are some of Goldbug’s biggest challenges?
I think the challenge for any of us in this industry is to stay fresh, relevant and innovative. Certainly, there are things like sourcing and manufacturing that a company has to do well, but ultimately it comes down to designing and delivering products that catch the eye aesthetically and offer a solution. I think we’ve managed to stay ahead of these challenges by emphasizing product design first, by building a talented product creation team and then constantly challenging them to push and stretch creatively while at the same time making sure we don’t lose sight of the fundamentals.
Goldbug is approaching its 50th anniversary. How will you commemorate the milestone?
That is an excellent question. We are looking at a number of fun ways to commemorate 50 years of being in business, but we’ve not finalized anything just yet.
Where do you see Goldbug headed in the next 10 years?
I think you will see us continue to lead the industry in design for the children’s market. The investments we made in 2016 will help foster growth and capacity on the wholesale side, and the launch of branded products are something we will continue to grow in a strategic and methodical way that helps expand and diversify our entire portfolio.
Do you have international expansion plans?
We have done some expansion to take on some of our own manufacturing through a new office overseas. Beyond that, we are still evaluating what makes sense in terms of other potential expansion opportunities.
What do you love most about your job?
The work is fun, rewarding and challenging. But like anything, what makes it worth doing are the people you get to interact with every day. Goldbug started as a family business and it’s still very much a family business. That family is just a little bigger than it was 50 years ago.