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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
717.763.1780
http://www.babybugandme.com

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Baby Samantha couldn’t be more precious in this day dress from Le Top Baby’s Spring 2010 Cherie Collection. She’s absolutely angelic!

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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!

4Describe 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”?

Sally:

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 letop 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 

Bright Beginnings
1006 W. 38th Street
Austin, TX 78705
512.454.5437

Bright Beginnings & Bee-yond
701 S Capital of TX Highway, Suite B 280
Austin, TX 78746
512.328.8989

Best Dressed for Less
3811 Medical Parkway
Austin, TX 78756
512.453.0433

HOUSTON, TX LOCATIONS

Cotton Tots
6510 Woodway
Houston, TX 77057
713.785.8686 

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Wow, their parents are so lucky to have not just one beautiful girl, but three.  These lovely siblings are all decked out in rabbit moon’s ‘cupcake‘ collection sunhat and dresses.  Way to show off our clothes!

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Today is the second in our new “Store Spotlight” series, where we feature a premiere le•top specialty retail store each week. Read more for an exclusive Q&A and “sneak peak” images of our featured store of the week!

Wickford - RI

This week we had the chance to interview one of Rhode Island and Connecticut’s finest boutiques, Teddy Bearskins. Meet the proud owners, Bob and Debra Semple and read about their 3 boutiques!

We want to give you the inside scoop on Teddy Bearskins’ latest and greatest news, and what YOU don’t know about a few of the East Coast’s cutest childrenswear stores.

1.     How did you get started with Teddy Bearskins?
Bob:
  Debra made all the clothes in our first store. I remember it was a very small store, but within 2 years, we had 2 bigger stores, and 3 stores after 5 years.

2.     What was your and Bob’s background prior to this business?
Debra:
 Bob was in advertising and sales management prior to entering the childrenswear business
Bob:  Deb was a home economics teacher, and also had a business degree. She [Deb] is by nature a fashion designer!

3.     Teddy Bearskins is a distinctive store name – does it have any special history?
Bob & Debra:
 The name Teddy Bearskins just had a great ring to it, and our favorite place was Bearskin Neck in Rockport, Massachusetts.

4.     Why Rhode Island and Connecticut? How did you pick these unique locations?
Debra:
  Bob moved to Rhode Island in 1983 for business, and unfortunately there were no teaching jobs. Our twins at the time were 3-years-old so we opted to start our own business.

5.     Describe the neighborhood your stores are in.

Mystic Village - CT

Bob & Debra:  Of our three stores, we would describe each as:

  1. Wickford Location ~ “Historic seaport village, and very quaint.”
  2. Mystic Location ~ “ A historic seaport and tourist area.” 
  3. Barrington Location ~ “A high-end village bedroom community of Providence.”

6.     Who is your target customer? Do you specialize in any certain types of product?
Debra:
  I would say our target customers are Grandparents, Parents, and Relatives of a newborn. We have a wide range of pricing.

7.     What products do your clientele like the most?
Bob:  Toys, shoes, and clothing from newborn to teenage.

8.     Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?
Bob & Debra:
  Jane Pauley, Montel Williams, several soap opera stars, and many professional sports athletes. Other clients include many of the Rhode Island TV personalities!

9.     What’s coming up for Teddy Bearskins? You have 3 stores and an online store – will there be a 4th store in the near future?
Bob & Debra:
  We are always considering some moves!

10.     You have a remarkable history having founded the first Teddy Bearskins store in 1983 – what makes Teddy Bearskins unique after all of these successful years?
Bob & Debra: 
We have everything you might need or want for your child or grandchild – from birth to size 20. We have customers from all over the country who stop in, call or even email us since they know we will have what they need or want.

Barrington - RI

 
11.     What do both you and Bob feel are the three biggest keys to your success?
Bob & Debra:
  1. Location
  2. Customer Service
  3. Hard Work, Hard Work, Hard Work!

12.     How do you select your products for the store?
Debra:
  I listen to my customers and also use my instinct and gut feelings.

13.     What is one trend you’re currently seeing with customers?
Debra:
  Simplicity.

14.     If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Bob & Debra:
  Make sure you know you will love retail. It’s 24/7, and if you do not want to put in 110%, do not open a store.

15.     What are your top 3 fashionista tips for dressing a child? And your #1 kid fashion “no-no”?
Bob & Debra:
 Keep it simple, give your child 3 choices, when asking their advice. And keep their personality in mind when making a selection. Do not give in to tantrums.

16.     You probably have seen thousands of parents and their children come in-and-out of all 3 of your store doors – what is one of the funniest things you have heard come out of parent or child’s mouth?
Bob & Debra: 
Nothing stands out at the moment. We have wonderful relationships with our customers, many laughs, great customers. It’s a big family and great fun. The kids always enjoy coming to our Teddy Bearskins locations.

17.     What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Debra:
  One of My favorite customers passed away and she requested in her eulogy that they mention how she loved Teddy Bearskins.

18.     What collection or piece from le•top and/or rabbitmoon do you love right now from the Spring 2010 collection?
Bob & Debra:
 Our favorite is the le•top boys Sail Away collection!

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Baby Ava loves her ‘le•top baby’ bonnet!  Kudos to Auntie Kate for
sending us this darling photo of her beautiful niece.

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