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A New Niche for Kids

Jill Rowen -- Home Textiles Today, January 8, 2014

CommonwealthCommonwealth has extended its insulated Weathermate construction into kid-friendly looks.
No surprise - the word is color, color, color when it comes to kid's soft window products. But parents may be looking for more than that.
     Makers with black-out, thermal and fire-retardant styles are giving parents a further reason to shop. It is a niche business to be sure, but one that is showing staying power.
     "When we started marketing kids' products, we thought it was a trend for a few seasons, but we consistently have retailers ask us for more," noted Angela Boswell, vp of design and product development, Ellery Homestyles.
     For others, it may not be the top focus, but it does register on the meter.
     "It's a niche business, but we work with our retailers. As always, it's important to work on the minimum order requirement," noted Barry Goodman, vp, national accounts, Commonwealth Home Fashions. "Color is important, and for tweens there's a glitter factor."
     The blue for boys and pink for girls may be traditional, but the array of colors offered in soft window is impressive. The colors are typically bright, but there are also trends that change seasonally for a stylish tot to follow.
     "Across the board, bright pink, purple and sky are the most successful and more recently bright sunshine yellow. The 63-inch length - at the sill - is key in this category," said Holly Slavin, design director, S. Lichtenberg.
     "We offer the pink and blue, but our color selection is more unisex, not too boyish or girlish," noted Tripp Hornick, coo, Louis Hornick & Sons.
S. LichtenbergSheers that coordinate back to prints is a growing category in kids for S. Lichtenberg.

    "We find solid colors are really important in this category," added Boswell. "A mom might be buying Little Mermaid everything else, but may not want that in curtains. Plus, she might use that same purple curtain as the child grows into other décor." More to watch for, according to Boswell: "Turquoise is trending up; and grey is interesting with a little bit of pattern in the mix."
     The black-out and insulation trends that cover the general window market are especially suited to the kids' market, makers say. Every parent wants a dark, energy efficient and stylish room where their child will sleep soundly and safely.
     For Ellery, its Eclipse room darkening brand does well. "It's wonderful and we offer it in all colors for adults and kids," said Boswell.
     "Our success has always been value at a price," noted Slavin. "Sheers with coordinating prints have been successful. Panels with added energy saving properties such as room darkening, blackout, thermal backed are the perfect kid's room solution. Parents are looking for a solution whether it be for performance and/or style. Kylee, our room darkening panel provides the energy solution while Calypso provides a sheer pop of color to complete the styling for their room," said Slavin.
     Hornick agrees that it's all about color, but warns "you better have a product that performs." The company introduced kids' colors to its Firefend line a few seasons ago. "I don't know why a parent wouldn't w
S.Lichtenberg’sPink is among one of S.Lichtenberg’s best-selling color for kids rooms.
ant to have Firefend in its kids' rooms for its protective, flame-rretardant properties."
     At Commonwealth, its popular grommet styled curtains under the Weather mate banner - an insulated duck fabric - make a statement in bright red and other child-friendly hues.
     For Hornick, in addition to per - formance, f u n c t i o n i s top of mind when marketing to parents. It also has to be about how parents use the curt ains and drapes. "Parents want kids' rooms clean. There's more of a concern about allergens. Parents are likely to wash drapes and curtains in a child's room much more often than other parts of the house," noted Hornick. "The products have to perform. There is shrinkage in all products, no matter what they say, and especially with certain backings. I've seen products of 95-inch length shrink to 84 inches. Our product is tested and has only 3% shrinkage."
     All these features have to come at a value price, as well. "You can reach the upper end if you're in West Elm, but we play in the middle tier," noted Goodman.
     Boswell noted that a $20 price point is typical and acceptable to a parent shopping the category.
By offering safety, style, a good night's sleep and price, soft window suppliers are hitting all the right notes in catching parents' attention.

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