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Jasmine Punzalan, owner of Kodomo in Boston, on growing her business by pushing boundaries with her buys.
EDUCATE YOUR CUSTOMERS When we came to Boston, the kids’ fashion scene was nonexistent, but people were yearning for something different. That’s why I’ve been successful—by pushing boundaries. The typical Boston kid isn’t going to necessarily wear a wild Caroline Bosmans dress, but I buy it to educate my customers. If you open a conversation about why your prices are a little higher, you’d be surprised how many parents become okay with paying more for clothes that aren’t fast fashion—meaning they’ll actually last for siblings to wear over and over again. Now that’s value!
THE CHANGE CONSTANT Just because something was super successful last year, doesn’t mean it’s going to perform well this year. Kids change so much, so you have to stay up on what’s popular and know clients on a deeper level to anticipate what they’ll want next. It’s challenging. What you buy is constantly evolving, but it’s also what keeps the job interesting!
ASK QUESTIONS When a brand catches my eye at a trade show, I ask the same questions: Tell me about your brand? How and where do you manufacture? How do you choose your retailers? I don’t want a brand that sells to just anybody. I want a brand that’s choosing partners carefully and aligning effectively with them. The more transparent a brand is, the more likely I’ll feel comfortable doing business with them.
SHOW UP A lot of retailers find it too costly and time-consuming to attend trade shows, but I believe it’s important to see everything in person first. I’ve bought things without touching them, and it was a huge letdown upon delivery. So go to shows and make showroom appointments. It’s worth it to ensure what you’re ordering is the quality your customers deserve.
CHALLENGE THE NORM Kids should be able to express themselves however they want. And although Boston is still conservative in many ways, Kodomo doesn’t have separate boys’ and girls’ sections. I merchandise based on colors and outfits. It takes time, but we’re definitely influencing patrons to be more open-minded. Customers come in and say, ‘I just saw a Kodomo kid!’ We’re so proud to be making such a statement in the community.