As for the parents themselves, BCG’s Silverstein says that typically they are older, waiting until their late thirties to have kids. Often they work from 40 to 65 hours per week and have an income in excess of US$ 150,000. They manage their costs by trading down for certain items (such as buying bulk at Costco or shopping at discount stores) and by trading up for certain items including products for loved ones—specifically children and pets. Parents choose items for technical (sleeker, better, innovative design), functional as well as emotional benefits. Those who spend the most on kids typically have one child: “the prince or princess.”
Brand owners are taking note. From Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus to trendy baby/kids boutiques popping up in Hollywood and across the US, the luxury market for little ones offers a mix of traditional couture brands, designer brands and trend-setting “emerging” brands with equally hefty price points.
The year 2001 saw the launch of Dolce & Gabanna’s ready to wear line D&G Junior. From farmer themes and classic movie-inspired Easy Rider themes to traditional tartans reminiscent of British schoolgirl outfits, the D&G Junior line offers a unique 2004/05 collection aimed at newborns to pre-teens. (At least this year marks the return of color; a company press release from the 2003/04 collection offered the kids a City Worker theme: “a group of sensible clothing in practical colors of mud, gray and navy.”)
Versace is also in on the kiddie act with its Versace Young designed for the “younger Versace clientele” of kids ages 4 to 14. The line includes casual and sportswear as well as “more sophisticated formal attire for special occasions.” Versace Young mimics the brand’s cache of rock star attitude as child models strike Rolling Stone cover-worthy poses on the Versace website.
Prada, Coach, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton and Gucci are but a few design houses that have entered the baby diaper bag market. From the US$ 1,120 Louis Vuitton bag to the $670 Prada bag to the Kate Spade $200-range specials, most contain detachable changing pads, dirty-diaper cases, cellphone spaces and other mommy/baby amenities. There is even the Jack Spade “dad bag” for $250. Since baby bags are more about a fashion accessory with functional benefits for parents to carry, it is not surprising that luxury handbag makers have jumped on the baby bandwagon.
Burberry is one label that has gone even further in the lifestyle domain by offering diaper bags and baby gear to children’s wear. For US$ 1,995, a posh baby can ride in style in a sporty, three-wheel Burberry Baby Jogger. For those on a smaller budget, there is also the Maclaren Kate Spade Stroller for a bargain at $300. From practical to flat-out surreal, Gucci reportedly offered white mink coats for babies for $4,250, in addition to its G-logo baby booties—an item also available from the Hermes label.
Of course if the traditional silver spoon is still desired, these are available in an assortment of styles at Tiffany & Co alongside sterling silver toothbrushes and silver rattles.
But does a baby couture brand actually provide increased revenue? Silverstein thinks that “Pure play baby luxury brands are the next wave,” referring to brands with a single focus on the luxury baby market. “Extensions by the major luxury brands into baby goods,” he concludes, “have not translated into substantial business.”
The underwhelming revenue from extending into baby luxury is echoed in a press report from Versace publicist Billy Daly, “[The baby market] is a very small part of [our] overall business. But, obviously, all luxury brands like to give you a complete world: from couture to ready-to-wear to fragrance and skin care, beauty, home and jeans. This is just one more extension” (Atlanta Journal- Constitution, 3 June 2004).
Indeed it can be argued that luxury’s push into baby/child markets via brand extensions is more about casting a halo effect on the overall brand versus trying to establish a lucrative stream of revenue. The building of brand awareness at younger and younger ages may not hurt a luxury brand either. In an article for DDI magazine, James McNeal, author of Kids as Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children and The Kids Market: Myths and Realities, says that brand consciousness begins as young as two years old. He goes on to state that the increase in awareness is up from a decade ago.
But Silverstein is not so convinced that this will translate into brand loyalty when the kids grow up. “Kids don’t carry their childhood apparel brands into their adult life,” he says, adding, “Most don’t pay enough attention.” Maybe not but it’s hard to imagine that those raised in the lap of luxury will not be ruined forever for settling for cheap quality.