Gucci, Givenchy and a £1,000 teddy bear - inside the Sunderland designer children's wear business taking the internet by storm
Award-winning Sunderland shop Designer Childrenswear has gone from a market stall to decking out the children of millionaires online.
Designer Childrenswear – founded more than 30 years ago by husband and wife duo Brenda and Kevin Coade – carries kids’ clothes by some of the world’s best-known designers for fashion conscious families.
The company started from humble beginnings on Newcastle quayside, where Brenda and Kevin would spend their weekends selling children’s dresses from a small market stall, before they opened their first bricks and mortar store inn Olive Street in Sunderland in 1984.
“It was the most obvious location, because we are both from Sunderland,” said Kevin.
The key to expansion came when they realised there was a gap in the market in the North East for someone selling high-end children’s clothes.
It was a struggle at first, with many companies not appreciating the potential size of the market.
“Even the brands themselves did not have so much in the way of children’s wear,” said Kevin.
Originally known as “Avenue”, the business re-branded to Designer Childrenswear in 2013, reflecting the evolution of the business into a dedicated retailer of luxury children’s wear and helping the company establish an enviable online presence.
Dionne Evans joined the business two years later and has overseen the meteoric rise of the online division.
“She is amazing,” said Kevin.
“She definitely pushes us – we would not do it without her.”
Dionne overhauled the company’s online and social media presence and international sales rocketed.
“They had a website previously, but it did very little. It was just a one-man band,” she said.
The firm has adapted its offering in response to the changing way people shop online: “83% of our business comes from mobile,” said Dionne.
“We don’t even design the website for desktop computers any more.”
Earlier this year, the business moved into a new shop in Derwent Street, after a £500,000 overhaul. The old Olive Street building has been retained and now serves as warehouse space, with the 45 employees moving between the two, as well as the firm’s nearby photo studio.
Brenda said: “There were about five of us when we started and there are 45 now. We are a multi-million pound business.”
And now the search is on for a new outlet and warehouse to complement the Derwent Street store.
“We are very much committed to the Sunderland and it is good for the city to have us here,” said Brenda.
“We get people coming from as far afield as Liverpool and Manchester to shop with us.”
Having been part of the city for so long the couple now find themselves serving some familiar faces: “We have got people we served as children coming in with their own children,” said Brenda.
Kevin believes customer service is key to the business’ success.
“From coming into the shop to buy an outfit for £10 to our most expensive item, the £1,000 Givenchy teddy bear – which is about 5ft tall – everybody who comes through the door is important. Even if you’re only coming in to buy a pair of socks, you get the same treatment.”
Dionne agrees: “The girls don’t have sales targets,” she said.
“It is absolutely about service and everyone tells us they love it that way.”
How much do designer children’s outfits cost?
Prices vary hugely from brand to brand.
Pretty Originals socks cost from £3.99 and the cheapest rompers are Mintini Baby’s rompers which cost from £20.99.
A Fendi romper, hat and bib set would set you back more than £324.00, a similar set by Gucci is £215.99. For older boys Versace tracksuits cost from £323.99 and Monclear coats range from £390 to £675.
Armani bottles cost £40 and Gucci headbands for little girls are £170.
Baby girls’ dresses range from £20 to £253 for a Versace outfit.
The website has a sale range with some bargain items under £10.