Retailers Jump on Kate's Baby Fashion Bandwagon
A recent panel at Retail Week's annual conference tackled the topic, "The Kate Effect," and that got me thinking about which retailers will be riding Kate's baby's coattails?
Since the Royal Wedding, every retail brand has been praying for Kate Middleton to grace the streets of London with an outfit, a pair of shoes or even just a fly-by visit.
And no wonder, just look at the brand Reiss. It was a dream came true when Kate hit the White House wearing one of its nude Shola bandage dresses in May 2011. She rivaled First Lady Michelle Obama's fashion credentials, and the outing made Reiss a known brand outside of the U.K. The brand is now carried at Bloomingdale's.
Other past Kate favorites include Zara, Whistles & LK Bennett (also now in Bloomingdale's.) And who could forget the engagement dress from Issa?
The baby is not even here yet and some retailers are already lucking out.
While Kate has been a big supporter of British brands, she has been known to branch out. The Duchess of Cambridge was spotted shopping maternity at the Gap. She reportedly had jeggings on her list, but could not find the correct length.
Gap really could have used the Kate boost as its international business is a growth focus and same-store sales have been in negative territory overseas for some time.
The future Queen is certainly not ignoring her go-to retailers, namely Reiss. Just recently she was spotted at the Kings Road store asking the staff why the retailer doesn't carry maternity? Ouch. The lost opportunity!
While most brands are not going to rush into a new business line just to throw themselves in Kate's path for nine months, Topshop is already in the business. Just last week the expectant mother purchased a £37 dress.
Here the shout out goes to Nordstrom, who has Topshop in its U.S. stores already. (And, by the way, don't think Topshop isn't going to end up in your U.S. backyard, a minority stake was just sold to a U.S. private equity firm). Thanks Kate!
While Kate is not due until July, let's consider which U.S. retailers that have exposure in the U.K might be on the baby gift list.
- Baby Gap. I know Kate couldn't find her jeggings, but she is known to be a cash-conscious gal. Baby Gap certainly fits the bill, so will she give the retailer another try?
- Ralph Lauren. Who could resist a £70 seersucker baby dress? Perfect for racing season this summer. Also very convenient for Kate on Bond Street. Just think, Ralph Lauren could own polo and baby.
- Topshop Mini. Checks all the boxes: affordable, British, and oh yes, Nordstrom better make sure they get some of that baby stock.
- We have all heard about Abercrombie's woes in Europe after over expansion. While Abercrombie Kids is on the way in London, the retailer might have to wait a while for the Kate Effect since it has a target age range of about 7. That is ok. Many investors are willing to take a long-term outlook
- I am betting the royal baby will end up with a pair of UGGs. After all, we have had snow into March in London, and if you spend as much time as I do here, you would know boots in the summer are more necessary than a bikini.
Disclosure: Widlitz is short shares of Abercrombie and Fitch.
Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow her on Twitter @StacyRetail