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Target to Revamp its Children’s Apparel Offering With New Line

Though some say Target relinquished a bit of its cool in recent years, the retailer’s kids’ clothes have been a fairly steady draw, and now that may ring even more true.

Target is swapping its resident kids’ brands, Cherokee (which it licenses) and Circo (its own private label), out for a new in-house line called Cat & Jack, slated to hit stores July 17. The babies line will join in stores Aug. 7. And even though both have been successful, Target’s taking heed from trends and children to develop the incoming line in one of the biggest move the retailer has made since new chief Brian Cornell took office two years back.

The line looks likely to be well timed, too, as market research firm Euromonitor International says the kids clothing market will expand 6.5% in the next four years.

In looking at retail apparel sales growth between last year and this year, menswear grew 2.9%, womenswear 1.7% and childrenswear 1.8%, according to an article in Bloomberg.

Target has its sights set on Cat & Jack expanding twice as fast as the industry average.

Designing the line

To develop the line, Target has invited children to focus groups and play days to let them interact with the line, say what they like and what they don’t, and see how they might wear something—it’s an exercise in letting what are increasingly very opinionated children be heard and developing product they’re more sure will sell.

Amanda Nusz, Target’s head merchant for kids’ clothes and Nadine Steklenski, head designer wanted to try something new with the retailer’s childrenswear but didn’t get the necessary support from Cornell’s predecessor, Gregg Steinhafel.

Cornell, on the other hand, wants Target to be “famous for kids,” Bloomberg reported.

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But deciding to scrap its existing kids’ clothing was a bold move.

“That was a big decision, because Circo and Cherokee were successful,” Julie Guggemos, Target’s head of product design and development, told Bloomberg. “The kids’ business wasn’t broken. It was strong.”

So in keeping with what has already been good, Target won’t stray far from its previous brands with the new one. While there will still be sparkles and glitter and ruffles for girls, prints will be more sophisticated and color combinations more creative. Boys will still see dinosaurs and astronauts, but looks will be less typical. T-shirts will display more positive messages over competitive ones—a trend Target tapped into in its kid research—and the website will feature a section dubbed “Tees for All” with shirts adorned with words like “Athlete” or “Smart and Strong,” for both boys and girls in a unisex fit, a nod to the more gender neutral trend emerging in apparel.

The clothing will still be priced similarly to its outgoing lines, with items ranging from $4.50 to $39.99, according to Bloomberg.

Sourcing the line

Target will concentrate its sourcing for Cat & Jack in low cost countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and Indonesia, and it is signing longer-term contracts with its suppliers there. The retailer has even tapped suppliers’ expertise for suggestions on materials to incorporate.

To keep the costs low enough for the business to be sustainable, Target said its suppliers will have to justify costs for every item ever year instead of starting based on the previous year’s budget.

Cat & Jack, according to Target, will be made tough for children’s lifestyles, but as an offer of assurance to parents, the retailer said, “Cat & Jack is made to last, but if anything doesn’t, you can return it up to one year later with your receipt,” an offer that has already resonated with quality-seeking parents in early focus groups.