Back to the future


The market for children’s products is diverging. While futuristic smart-toy sales are booming, nostalgic clothing and equipment brands are simultaneously attracting the same consumers. This has notably been triggered by the powerful influence of Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s traditional wardrobes. The demand for timeless classics has created an opportunity for brands that would have ordinarily remained in the shadow of the market giants.

So how do these niche or challenger brands succeed and keep this classic styling from disappearing into obscurity once more? And how do they get noticed when so many new entrants are flooding into the children’s clothing and equipment market?

We believe success comes from four strategies:

Create an emotional bond
Brands need to resonate with children and, more importantly, the parents. Nostalgia is a powerful way to do this, particularly for millennial parents, who increasingly focus on creating experiences which make childhood memorable. And there’s no better way of doing this than to remind parents of their own childhood. An example is Elfie Clothing, an independent British childrenswear brand inspired by tradition and whimsy of classic childhood, especially favoured by the royal children.

Sell quality and authenticity
The increased interest in the craftsmanship and origin of products lends itself well to the ‘proper’ way products used to be made. Many parents have become tired of our throw-away attitude to clothes and toys – this creates the perfect seeding ground for new companies to develop retro-inspired products from ‘simpler times’. One such company is Candylab Toys, which hand-makes modern, vintage wooden cars.

Develop a modern interpretation of the past
To be taken seriously, older existing brands need to find their place in a modern world. Silver Cross prams has reinvented its brand through a strong focus on developing innovative yet luxury pushchairs, appearing in a 2016 Which? survey as the third most commonly owned pushchair in the UK. Angel & Rocket is also a fine example of a fashionable clothing business for children, which is recreating the category for appropriate partywear for special occasions as well as everyday casual.

Tell a story
Finally, brands like illustration-based Belle & Boo (seen in the picture above), which started primarily through word of mouth, demonstrate the need to tell a clear, authentic brand story when selling nostalgia. Being active on social media platforms and encouraging two-way dialogue helps reiterate the brand message and create a connection with key target groups, such as millennials.

The challenge for new brands is to get noticed. Employing these four strategies and finding the right partners to increase distribution should prove a sound base for success.