Children's clothing chain Babycity is expanding under the leadership of new operator Trevor Douthett, previously the head of electronics chain LV Martin, with a new Wellington store opening today.
A company Douthett leads, Baby City Retail Investments, bought the Babycity chain from Postie Plus with equity backing from a Wellington private investor in May. At the time, six Babycity outlets had shut around the country in less than a year.
Now it has a new site at Thorndon's Capital Gateway Mega Centre, an active presence in Auckland hunting out new retail properties to lease, and it recently acquired another Wellington baby store.
Babycity sells infant paraphernalia from clothing to strollers, breast pumps and highchairs. Part of Douthett's plan for acquiring the brand was to expand it, starting with the Thorndon shop.
"Capital Gateway is very much a kids' precinct with representation from a significant number of children's stores in apparel, toys and so on. We thought our range of product would be a good addition to the location."
In August, the company purchased Newtown boutique baby goods store Little League from owner operator Alicia Nevill.
"Little League has some more exclusive products and apparel than the broader chain, with a slightly different customer base," said Douthett. "We're evaluating whether Little League is an offering we can roll out either as part of a store within a store in some of our larger stores or whether there are opportunities for other boutique offerings."
Babycity recently won gold in the OHBaby! magazine awards for best baby retailer, ahead of rival The Baby Factory, which has 27 stores nationwide, including three in the Wellington region.
Although stores had shut at some locations such as Queenstown where he had no plans to re-enter those markets, online ordering was strong, Douthett said. One customer commented on Babycity's Facebook page how fast the chain shipped to "desperate rural mums".
Its Auckland footprint was only in the south and northeast, so it was looking for properties, he said.
In some ways it was a big change from LV Martin. "But in others, it is very similar. That was part of the appeal. It's a business that is very focused on its customers, the purchases are frequently emotional and require a significant amount of product knowledge to be held by the staff.
"Mums and mums-to-be are very keen to get information, assistance, advice and discussion.
"To be able to deliver that you need highly trained and skilful staff, which is very similar to LV Martin."
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