The big business of kids' parties

It's not just important events in our working lives to which we devote hours of planning time. When a child's birthday looms, mum and dad go into overdrive to ensure their kid's party wows the tiny guests.

Indeed, children's parties hit the headlines recently when reality TV personality Kim Kardashian held 'Kidchella', a festival themed first birthday party for her daughter North.

Kidchella is a play on the words Coachella, one of the US's largest summer music festivals. Kardiashian's party had a ferris wheel, stage and guests could adorn themselves with temporary tattoos. Much like a real music festival.

Elsewhere, businesses are tapping into parents' desire to give their children the very best party - certainly better than the Joneses' next door. Today's it's commonplace for kids' parties to feature entertainers, with parents now reliant on the services of party planners and accessories suppliers to make their bash best-in-class.

For instance, in Australia, Mini Party People hires out kids' chairs, tables and accessories for children's parties. Owner Stacey Moran has a background in homewares and was a full-time buyer before realising there was a niche in the market for this service.

"A friend of mine was having problems finding what she called 'cool' chairs and non-plastic furniture for her daughter's party," Moran says. "I couldn't believe they weren't available somewhere but when I discovered no one did this, I started Mini Party People in Melbourne."

Moran has since started up in Sydney and also sources supplies and accessories such as plates and lolly bags.

"But hiring furniture is 90 per cent of what my business does now," she says. "And we are continuing to grow."

In the two years, Mini Party People has been established, Moran has noticed a number of trends around kids' parties.

"Trends can be broken down according to gender and age," she says. "Young girls are influenced by films and TV shows. We are getting a lot of orders for furniture that is themed according to the movie Frozen, for example."

Moran says boys, however, like superheroes and magic, or reptiles - anything slippery and slimy. She has also seen people spend thousands on a party.

"The average is around A$400 ($432) to A$500 but it always depends," she says. "The parent is making a memory for themselves and their child and they want them to feel special."

Having an entertainer such as a fairy or clown is a popular party addition. Samuel Rice is director of Star Dust Kids Entertainment, which provides entertainers for parties and events.

"We like to think we're unique as we link what we do at parties to a narrative, as I think it helps the kids engage more," he says.

For example, he says, if a child is having a pirate party, the entertainer will teach the kids to talk in pirate voices and the activities organised may involve a treasure hunt or a lesson in "sneaking skills".

Star Dust only provides the entertainment although Rice says it can recommend suppliers if parents want to know where to source lolly bags and food.

"Providing food involves getting different insurance," Rice says. "We have public indemnity insurance for our entertainers but providing food can be tricky, especially with allergies."

He says his service is "reasonably priced". "And we're honest about telling a parent want they need," he says. "If we're employed for three hours we may say that two hours would be more appropriate for the age group."

Rice employs 12 entertainers and has around 60 to 70 parties a week - usually on the weekend.

"I find people spend about A$250 to A$200 on entertainment for a party," he says. "We've really come full circle. Several years ago, people were having ten-pin bowling parties and spending A$15 per child on that then needing to add more on top for the food. Now they are having the parties at home and paying for the entertainment and finding it's very cost-effective."

Another popular party activity is face-painting. One Australian company, Pure Poppet, has responded to the desire for more environmentally friendly options by providing a non-toxic make-up range.

Director Georga Holdich says she started the brand because of the trends that were occurring in natural products. "People were looking for natural alternatives, not only for healthy treats but also for healthy activities," she says.

Pure Poppet has been operating for three years and sells in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Everything is 100 per cent natural except the nail polish. Purchasers can either do the face-painting themselves or use the stencils provided.

"Our business is growing, in large because people are tired of toxic products," Holdich says. "We've got a new overseas distributor and sell into Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. We also have a relationship with an agent in the US and are looking at opportunities in the UK and Europe. A make-up chain in Spain has also taken us up."

The range is also popular, Holdich says, because for parents it's good and easy fun.

"Some kids' parties are over the top," she says. "People can put as much planning into them as a wedding."

Sydney Morning Herald