In the News
By Erika Berg, Earnshaw's Magazine
Run by a designer who channels her inner child and an executive team that adheres to integrity, this Chicago-based purveyor of "fun, practical and unique" rainwear and accessories continues to flourish during trying economic times.
In a sense, Kidorable is on its way to becoming the Louis Vuitton of children's accessories. The vendor's whimsical designs have been knocked off so frequently since the company sold its first umbrella seven years ago that a substantial part of President Jonathan Domsky's job is suing copycat companies for trademark infringement. "At any given time, we're involved in four to eight lawsuits," Domsky explained.
When Domsky and his wife/designer Liping Yang started out, they were confident that their products would be well-received-in part due to Yang's ability to channel her inner child and translate those ideas into fun, great-looking product. "We knew we were doing something that was special, that was different," Domsky said. "We felt like there were dozens and dozens of kids' accessories, but there weren't a lot of cute things-everything looked the same."
Still, the owners weren't prepared for the overwhelming response Kidorable generated from both buyers and competitors at their first trade event, Chicago's Women's and Children's Fashion Apparel Show in May 1997. According to Domsky, everyone who walked past the booth stopped to check out the brightly colored umbrellas and hangers with pop-up frog eyes, ladybug spots and 3-D bee antennae. After the show, Yang began creating more accessories such as raincoats, rain boots and backpacks to complement the umbrellas and hangers.
Today, even in a difficult economy, Kidorable's profits have grown significantly. The company witnessed a 38 percent growth last year, according to Michael Henschel, national sales manager. "To grow 38 percent in an economy in which a lot of businesses are going bankrupt-that says a lot," Henschel said. Kidorable's accessories have a solid following with consumers at department stores such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Lord & Taylor and their popularity is continuing to spread. "We've come to the point where people are going into stores and asking, 'Do you carry Kidorable?'" he said. "We're getting stronger and people are recognizing us as the brand, the leader and everything else is just an imitation. It is regarded as a very classy stylish and sharp line." Even in this soft economy consumers are still buying products that "make them feel good," according to Henschel, and Kidorable fits the bill.
The new collection includes cold-weather accessories such as hats, scarves and mittens, and a warm weather line debuting for Spring '04 comprises T-shirts, swimsuits, goggles and towels. Also, Kidorable's "playground accessories"-which include waterproof purses and backpacks and wooden room accessories like bookends and hangers-are gaining market share. "We expect that in two years, we will be selling more rainwear than we are today, but it will be a small fraction of our total sales," Domsky explained.
Yang's creations truly strike consumers heartstrings. "We want kids to have fun with everyday things that they use and to express themselves through our products," she said. Domsky concurred and added that grown-ups are just as likely to enjoy the line: "We create products that will warm a child's heart and that at the same time will make an adult smile and feel nostalgic."
Although the designs remain at the core of Kidorable's success, Domsky believes that the company's commitment to integrity contributes to its bottom line. "We want our customers to feel satisfied and we want them to feel that they've been treated well," Domsky said. "We want to be fair and to be reasonable, not just from our company's perspective, but from the perspective of our sales reps and our consumers." Above all, Kidorable wants to make people feel good, according to Henschel. "In today's crazy world, it's really wonderful that we can bring products to consumers that will bring a smile to their faces."