Baby Bunting

Baby Bunting

Byline: Annette Joyce

Every time I’ve ever attended a baby shower, there’s always one particular gift item that stands out – baby blankets. Regardless of how many they receive, most mothers-to-be delight in getting them because they come in such a fun variety of styles and fabrics.

Baby blankets have two essential purposes – they provide comfort for the baby and also serve as heirlooms to be passed down from one generation to the next. First, there’s the comfort factor. Not only do blankets provide warmth, but, according to some experts, when used to bundle newborns, they provide them with a sense of security.

On the remembrance side, baby blankets make beautiful keepsakes. Whether stitched lovingly by hand or personalized with the baby’s name and birth date, baby blankets can be stored away in cedar chests and eventually passed on to the next generation.

Whichever way you look at them, baby blankets are a thriving business. Just visit a local baby store or do a Web search and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The choices are mind-boggling. There are literally thousands of blanket styles. You can choose between handmade and mass produced, and, depending on the weight you want, styles are available in satin, fleece, chenille, acrylic, terry, flannel, cotton and more. If you want something really special, consider an ultra-soft baby afghan or a cuddly blanket with a stuffed animal head, two popular gift options. Once you’ve decided on a style, there’s an entire palette of gorgeous colors and patterns to choose from. At one time, blankets came in only four basic colors – pink, blue, yellow and white – but not anymore. Now, you can find most any color you desire. While it’s interesting to note the variety of styles available, as a home embroiderer, there’s something else you should find appealing – the profit potential you can achieve by adding personalization.

From Simple To Sumptuous

There are several avenues you can take to enter this market. If you’re a seamstress, you might enjoy making your own blankets. You could do simple flannel blankets with a whipstitch or quilted blankets with a border accent, or you may decide to do something a bit more elaborate. One company I found uses a mix of patterns and different cartoon-type animals. Customers are invited to choose their color, pattern and character. The child’s name, embroidered beneath the character, gives the final customized touch. For those who aren’t interested in stitching anything but the embroidery, there are lots of options on the wholesale market. To get an overview of who’s selling what, be sure to check out the Stitches Buyers Guide.

You might also want to research what sort of designs work best on baby blankets. A simple name is always appropriate, as are typical baby designs that can be used to dress up any type of lettering. A favorite for keepsake blankets is an embroidered name and birth date. Some people like to add the weight of the baby at birth.

Once you’ve got a basic idea of what sort of blankets you might want to offer, the next step is to find out what’s available to your potential customers. Look through the Yellow Pages. Visit local stores that specialize in baby accessories. Take a tour of the Web. Find out what the competition is offering and how they’re getting their customers. What are their asking prices? Do they provide any type of special services? As you compare the various companies, you’ll probably notice that there’s a low-end and high-end to the market and the prices can be extremely different. For instance, you could purchase a blanket for under $5 at almost any large retail store. You could also easily spend well over a $100 for a designer baby blanket.

Reaching Your Target Market

Mass retailers tend to fall at the low-end of the market, offering very basic styles. If there’s any embroidery at all, it’s a single stock design stitched on a corner edge. The more expensive blankets show up in specialty shops or on Web sites. When you’re looking at entering the market, you need to determine where you want to fit in. Your final product and marketing strategies will be quite different depending on the customer you want to target. With that said, let’s look at ways to get into this potentially profitable market.

Once you’ve developed your product line, consider how you want to sell your product. If you prefer to work out of your home and aren’t interested in opening up a shop, take heart, there are still numerous options available. More and more people are relying on the Internet to reach their customers. This is not surprising, since selling over the Internet gives you the greatest audience for your product. However, if you’re just starting out, give this option some serious thought. You need to be certain that you can handle the potential demand. Customer satisfaction will suffer if you can’t get your product out in a timely manner. Should you decide this is the best way for you to do business, develop an attractive, easy-to-use Web site and add a Web address to any printed materials you distribute – business cards, ads, brochures and letterhead. It’s also a good idea to talk to someone who has experience in developing Web sites. A professional can give you valuable advice on what works and what doesn’t.

Another way to reach customers is through existing retail stores. Contact local baby stores and offer to provide embroidery for their customers. Ask the manager to allow you to put up a small display. It might be possible for the store’s employees to actually take the orders. You can pick up and drop off product at a designated time. You’ll also want to check out specialty stores. Many of these stores have a nice selection of baby gifts and would be delighted to offer their customers the extra service. In most cases, with these types of stores, you’ll be working with local management, so it might be easier to work out an arrangement that will be more beneficial for your business.

While you’re looking at retail operations, don’t forget to consider florist shops and companies that offer gift baskets. Both of these establishments do a lot of business delivering congratulatory gifts to new mothers and newborns. Savvy business owners might like the idea of adding a personalized baby blanket to their repertoire of product offerings.

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Hospitals are another place to peddle your wares – after all, when it comes to babies, this is where the action takes place. Put together a simple flyer that describes your product, prices and delivery times. Locate the people in charge of putting together information packets for mothers-to-be and new mothers and talk to them about adding your flyer. And, don’t forget the hospital gift shop. Find out if it would be possible to add your blankets to the hospital’s offerings, or at least provide the embroidery service. Since mothers and their babies tend to leave fairly quickly, it would be great if you could offer a free same-day service for all the doting grandparents who want to present their grandchild with a memorable keepsake.

Whatever tactic you choose, the main thing is to get your name out and let people know what you offer. An obvious, but often overlooked, way to do this is to tell people what you do and show them your product. Whenever you’re invited to a baby shower, be sure to give the mother-to-be one of your beautifully embroidered blankets. Make certain your family and friends are aware of your business and give them plenty of business cards to pass around.

Baby blankets are definitely a viable market for the embroiderer who can take a simple piece of cloth and turn it into something so special that it will be carefully stored away and lovingly handed down as a family heirloom. It’s all a matter of tapping into the right outlet and, often, all that takes is a little persistence.

Annette Joyce has been in the industry since 1987. During that time, she handled the marketing for Macpherson Meistergram and Barudan America. She is currently working as a marketing consultant.

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