It’s a baby bug’s life! Read about our 6th premier retailer in our weekly “Store Spotlight” series where we feature one of Le Top’s best stores. Judy Novinger, owner of Baby Bug & Me, gives us the fun facts of the state bug of Pennsylvania (where her store is located), her launch of a “shoetique,” what mommies buy in her store versus her online boutique, and what celebrity mommy she would love to meet!
1. What made you decide to enter the children’s business and what did you do before?
Judy: Baby Bug & Me is a spin off of my previous retail gift shop named Lightning Bug, Inc. There was a major closing of many of the children’s boutiques in the greater Harrisburg, PA area a few years ago. I opened Baby Bug & Me in September 2003 to fill this retail gap.
2. The name of your store is very playful – where did the name come from?
Judy: My original gift shop featured a whimsical little girl lightning bug as our logo. Our baby boutique logo shows the little girl lightning bug all grown up and pushing a buggy with a baby bug.
Thus the name “Baby Bug & Me.” Oh by the way, the “Lightening Bug” is also the state insect of Pennsylvania!
3. What would people be surprised to learn about you and your store?
Judy: I was formerly a gift buyer for a large department store and decided to interview for the children’s clothing buyer position. I was told that I ‘didn’t have what it took to buy children’s fashions’ and did not get the job. As time went on, I moved on to pursue other opportunities in sales and retail. Ironically, had I been selected for that original position there probably would not be a Baby Bug & Me today.
4. Who is your target customer?
Judy: The grandparents are my strongest supporters! Being a grandmother of eight, I know the thrill of having the child of my child in my arms. My customers share stories, pictures and what they want to buy for their families. The grandparent shopper is looking for the clothing that “keeps children looking like children”. That is why Le Top is our largest clothing retailer source. They give quality and take cute to the limit!
5. As a couple, you and your husband must have incredibly demanding schedules with the store. What’s the key to your successful marriage?
Judy: My husband Jim, whom I am married to for 40 years, is the man behind the scenes. Even with having a full-time job, he still finds the time to support Baby Bug & Me. From my visions, he builds my fixtures. He supports my business computer needs, and he is the MUSCLE behind the heavy “grunt work.”
6. What products do your clientele like the most?
Judy: Layette, playwear and shoes are our strongest categories. We provide sizes preemie to 4 toddlers for boys, and girls’ sizes expand from preemie to 6x with a move to 10/12 in the fall. This fall we will have completed our expansion of “The Shoetique”. This is our store within a store concept for shoes. Fortunately, my customers are very forthcoming with what they want for their shopping needs. They want good quality shoes to match the clothing they purchase.
7. Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?
Judy: Most of my celebs are from our diverse local TV and radio personalities. It’s fun meeting the person behind the voice on the radio.
8. There are so many famous celebrity mommies that we see each week in the weeklies such as Us Weekly, InTouch, etc. – if you could meet one celeb mommy or daddy, who would it be and why?
Judy: I think I’d like to meet Sandra Bullock. She seems like a good, caring working mother and an all around nice person.
9. Between all of the social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, and more – what do you think about social networking and how it allows moms and dads to come together as a parenting community?
Judy: I have learned that the computer savvy mother turns to the Internet for their children’s needs. After hours, when moms are finally settled, she browses the Internet to shop and network with other parents. We actually just hired a new associate for our store that set Baby Bug & Me up on Facebook. Wow! What a network! I also have learned to surf the net to find new and exciting product for the store – it helps me with the necessary planning to attend seasonal kids trade shows.
10. I heard the Lemoyne area in Pennsylvania is pretty cute; describe the neighborhood your store is in for us.
Judy: Lemoyne is located approximately 2 miles south of Harrisburg, PA, our capitol. We are 1 of 14 upscale businesses located above the West Shore Farmers Market. Picture a smaller scale Quincy Market type atmosphere as seen in Boston.
11. What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?
Judy: Customer Service, Fine Quality Merchandise, and Product Knowledge. We always want our customer’s time in Baby Bug to be a good experience. They deserve individual attention when buying for whatever the occasion. We supply free gift wrapping for one stop shopping and a special play area to keep those little people occupied. Customers want a unique look that screams quality. We feel the customer deserves to know the origin, manufacturer and the proper care of all our products.
12. How do you select your products for the store? Do you find that there is a difference between your online boutique consumers for your brand versus your typical store consumer?
Judy: We have a three-part formula. One third is what I feel the customer will like. One third is what is trending i.e. organic. One third is what the area demands, shoes, christening, seasonal, preemie, etc. We find our online customer wants to buy accessories and toys rather than clothing. The store customer wants to touch the merchandise. They like to see the colors, evaluate attributes and talk with us about proper sizing. How frustrating it is to buy something on the web only to find it needs to be returned for one reason or another. We do shipping for the continental US and military APO and FPO addresses for both online or store sales.
13. If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Judy: Always begin with a financial business plan. It is not a matter of just going to the market place and buying pretty things. Do your homework to meet both the area’s needs and your financial plans. Mentor with other business people.
14. What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Judy: I believe that most people, when asked this question, would probably respond with a happy story, and I have many of those. However, my most memorable moment was when I was able to personally assist a grieving grandfather in selecting the burial clothing for his deceased new grandchild. I felt so humbled in helping this family.
15. What collection or piece from Le Top and/or rabbit moon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
Judy: I am wowed by the oranges and blues of Lots ‘o Fish, a true step away from the traditional blues and pinks. The style and fashion make this a fun group for either boy or girl. I love the mixing of patterns and stripes and the use of the whimsical orange fish appliqués.
Baby Bug & Me
900 Market Street
Lemoyne, PA 17043
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