Uno, Dos, Tres! Check out the 3rd premier retailer in our “Store Spotlight” series that features one top le●top store pick of the week. Read more below for an inside “peek” into one of the best children’s retailers in Texas!
We put the mic up to Sally and Marc Whitehouse, owners of Bright Beginnings and Cotton Tots – who have four of the most adorable and well-respected children’s boutiques in Texas (and a pretty darn amazing online store too!) – and got the skinny on what any good mommy, daddy and kiddie shopper would want to know.
1. How did you both get started with Bright Beginnings?
Sally: We had trouble finding the kind of clothing we wanted for our own children…cool, comfortable, easy-wearing cotton in fun styles. We also loved the idea of entrepreneurship and sharing with others the delightful brands we had found.
2. What was your background prior to this business?
Sally: We are a family business…started by us back in 1984. Prior to that, Marc had his own CPA firm at the time, and I had taken time off from teaching high school special education to have children.
3. Bright Beginnings is a distinctive store name – does it have any special history? What was the evolution behind your 4 store names from Bright Beginnings to Best Dressed Kids to Cotton Tots?
Sally & Marc: We hope that all children have a very bright beginning of life! And we believe that clothing should be very bright and colorful as well…it just makes you smile! Our Austin stores were all named Bright Beginnings, but the name was taken in other Texas cities…hence our Houston stores became Cotton Tots…referring to the fact that most of our clothing was luscious, comfortable cotton. Our website name needed to encompass specifically who we are, to aid in branding and in searches online. Bestdressedkids.com seemed to say it all!
4. Describe the neighborhood your 4 stores are in.
Marc: Our stores are all in suburban neighborhoods of fine cities. We like to have that neighborhood feel of knowing our customers and their families.
5. Who is your target customer? Do you specialize in any certain types of product? Does it vary from store to store?
Sally & Marc: Our target customer is anyone looking for something unique and of great value for babies through tweens…with a little bit for their mommies, too! We specialize in soft, comfortable clothing and we appeal to people of all income levels as we have a variety of goods, with something for everyone’s needs. We also strive to be kid AND parent friendly in styling and comfort.
6. What products do your clientele like the most?
Sally: That’s a hard one, because we have such a variety. I think they have come to trust us as a place to get unique products at a good price, with wonderful customer service.
7. Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?
Sally & Marc: Governors, politicians and actors…oh my! Yes, we certainly do and we like to honor their privacy. ;)
Bright Beginnings features le•top
8. What’s coming up for Bright Beginnings? Any new stores or updates buying features to your website?
Sally & Marc: We are currently unveiling a new website that has more features and is more user-friendly than our current Bestdressedkids.com. We are also developing a software program that provides real time point of sale, back office and Internet sales.
9. What makes Bright Beginnings unique after 26 years?
Sally & Marc: Customer service and a desire to really help people. We have always been in this business for the long haul. We encourage true listening and that burning desire to find the perfect thing for each customer. Sometimes we don’t have it…and that’s okay…but we still gain a loyal customer who will come back.
10. You have a remarkable history and have been around 26 years, do you celebrate your anniversary years?
Sally: We do quietly celebrate the gratitude we feel for our staff, our customers, and our vendors.
11. What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?
Sally & Marc:
1) A friendly, knowledgeable staff
2) Partnership with our reps and vendors
3) Determination to keep a large selection of unique offerings to our customers.
12. How do you select your products for the store?
Sally & Marc: We analyze sales and performance by brand constantly…so through sell-through reports, fashion sense, buying experience, and a well-rounded look at each category, size range, and brand.
13. What is one trend you’re currently seeing with customers?
Sally: Customers are definitely streamlining their purchases and buying more items that will mix and match together. We have always been fans of mixing and matching, as it stretches your options…so this is trend is perfect for us.
14. If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Marc: Find your niche based on what people are looking for, but then be flexible and listen to your customers.
15. You probably have seen thousands of mommies and their children come in and out of your stores’ doors – what is one of the funniest things you have heard come out of parent or child’s mouth?
Sally: I have always said that I could write a book about things I’ve seen and heard, but it’s hard to pinpoint the funniest! I guess we all chuckled quite a bit when a mom confessed that she had gone into a competitor’s store and said she was so embarrassed that her child asked for an “I Love Bright Beginnings” sticker to wear!
16. What are your top 3 fashionista tips for dressing a child? And your #1 kid fashion “no-no”?
1) Let them be part of the process and show their true personality (with your family values as a guide, of course!)
2) Be sure they like it…if they don’t like it in the store, they most likely won’t wear it from home.
3) Remember that this time goes so quickly. There is only a short amount of time when we can wear fun, silly, overdone clothing that just makes us feel good. (See, don’t you wish you could do that today?) Don’t be too serious about how they dress when they are young…relax and enjoy it (and take lots of pictures )
4) #1 No-no: Dressing a child like a small adult. Too serious!
17. What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Sally: Sitting on the floor with a little girl who was 5 years old and whose mother told me she had a poor self-image. I thought, “Not at FIVE!” I had her help me with a gift wrap project and we talked while her mom shopped. Just as expected, she was a beautiful soul. It reminded me how precious each child is.
18. What collection or piece from le●top and/or rabbit moon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
Sally: The le●top leopard, giraffe, and duck monokinis….they are spectacular! I see little ones wearing these at my neighborhood pool, complete with hat and sunglasses, and it makes me giggle every time.
AUSTIN, TX LOCATIONS
1006 W. 38th Street
Austin, TX 78705
Bright Beginnings & Bee-yond
701 S Capital of TX Highway, Suite B 280
Austin, TX 78746
Best Dressed for Less
3811 Medical Parkway
Austin, TX 78756
HOUSTON, TX LOCATIONS
Houston, TX 77057
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