Toys 'R Us's latest partnership has given birth to a line of baby apparel and gear designed for parents who think beyond pastel blue and pink.
The retailer has tapped tween fashion brand LittleMissMatched to lend its quirky sensibility to a collection of baby products ranging from bibs to blankets, onesies to cribs. And, yes, even LittleMissMatched signature odd-numbered packs of mixed-up socks in sizes tiny enough for a baby's foot.
The partnership extends an existing relationship between the two companies and is in-line with the strategies both companies have used in the past.
Toys 'R Us has teamed with other fashion brands such as Kenneth Brown and Amy Choe to bring exclusive products to its Toys 'R Us and Babies 'R Us stores.
Meanwhile, LittleMissMatched has been moving to products that extend its brand beyond the socks upon which its business was orginally based. These include a broader range of clothing as well as backpacks, bedding and other decorative items. The company also has begun operating its own stores to reach customers beyond the boutiques it operated within other retail stores, including Toys 'R Us and FAO Schwarz, which is now owned by the toy retailer.
The new baby products feature LittleMissMatched's bold color pallette, including black, a color that is not usually the first one you think of when you think of apparel for baby. The designs also often incorporate a mix of patterns—circles and stripes, for example.
The companies even have extended the concept of mixing and matching to furniture with a convertible crib that has interchangeable slats to allow parents to customize the header and the footer.
According to LittleMissMatched CEO and co-founder Jonah Staw, most baby products are designed to appeal to mothers and often reflect soothing designs, but he expects his products will appeal to the babies themselves.
"Babies first see black and white, then they move to large shapes and patterns," Staw said.
"I think there is a market opportunity for the colors and patterns that kids actually can see."
But mothers will likely be won over by the playful fashion that for which the brand is known. Although LittleMissMatched's core products were created with 8- to 12-year-olds in mind, the company has appealed to other age groups.
As the company ventured into developing products for a younger age group, Staw felt it was important to tap the knowledge of a partner.
As for Toys 'R Us, the retailer expects the designs to appeal to a broad audience.
"We're always looking for new and unique ideas," said Karen Dodge, chief merchandising officer at Toys 'R Us. The idea is to drive customers to the store with the lure of merchandise that can't be found anywhere else.
The LittleMisMatched products will be priced in "a mid-to-better price range," Dodge said.
Apparel, for example, will be priced from $7.99 to $24.99. The clothing will be featured in Babies 'R US catalog, which will be part of a marketing campaign planned for the brand. In-store signage and online promotion are also part of the plan.
The company also is taking orders now for the LittleMissMatched crib at its Web site. The product will be in the stores this fall.
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