Style, substance and a seamless shopping experience. KIDLY founder James Hart talks to Junior about the new brand shaking up children's retail.
James Hart: KIDLY's founder
There’s a new brand on the block - and James Hart thinks you’re going to love it.
Launched this summer, KIDLY is Hart’s latest business, created to make finding and buying stylish items seamless for busy parents. After 15 years leading the fashion site ASOS, he knows what it takes to be a highly successful retailer. And having helped ASOS become a destination for all things fashion (for 20 somethings), he decided to build an online place for new parents, to bring together design-led brands and own label products along the way. Junior met the man behind the brand.
KIDLY was started when you saw a gap in the market for beautiful, design-led items for children. Was it a personal frustration or business opportunity?
When I started having kids I had two big frustrations. One was (being a dad to 3 boys), if I saw another slogan t-shirt or superhero cereal bowl I was going to lose it. I like to think my wardrobe is pretty stylish, and my home the same, so why did I have to settle on the kids’ stuff? Then I realised that the things I wanted were actually out there but, cue my second frustration: they were just so hard to find. They were usually hidden away on small websites, or in independent stores on the high street. So, I think it was a personal frustration with a great business opportunity. We want to find the things that are ultimately right for children, but also reflect a personal style and looks good in people’s homes. In short, helping parents to still feel like the people they were before they had kids.
You’re passionate about putting customers first; ASOS is renowned for it, and now KIDLY. What does that really mean to you and why is it so important?
It’s not just about customer service; it’s customer empathy, seeing the world through their eyes, that is most important. We are parents too, we know that’s hard enough as it is. So we need to ensure that our customer experience is effortless, but the most important thing is being there every step of the way. Every product we sell is tested by real parents before we sell it - style over substance doesn’t cut it when it comes to kids’ stuff. We don’t have a customer service team, we all take the time to be the real-time chat person on the website. And everyone in the team knows their stuff and cares - so everyone is genuinely friendly and bend-over-backwards helpful.
KIDLY - things for kids, you'll love too.
What’s the most important thing when it comes to buying children’s items. Does cost matter?
Value does. My four-year-old still sits in his Bloom Fresco high chair he has had from birth. We had our Zany Zoo Activity cube in the living room for five years, across all three kids. Both are expensive if you look at the ticket price, but both have stood the test of time. So, cost is one dimensional. For me, with kids’ stuff, it’s about the right quality product, at the right price. So for KIDLY products, if its design-led then parents will love it as much as their child, so that’s two happy customers for the price of one.
What are your tips for keeping a house looking fabulous with three boys?
It’s almost impossible! We tried giving them their own space, converting a spare bedroom into a den, then we tried making their bedrooms den-like too; the idea being all clutter lived in their rooms. The thing with kids is that they always want to be within 10 feet of you, so the only real solution is a lot of built in cupboards in the family room. There is no magic product recommendation here!
Products with personality
What are your favourite KIDLY products & why?
One of the bugbears I had back when I was imagining KIDLY was the awful kids’ kitchenware we had sitting alongside our carefully selected adult ranges. Faded Buzz Lightyear bowls, Noddy plates just weren't cutting it. So I particularly like Buddy & Bear and new brand Super Petit, who have really stepped up in terms of design, whilst keeping the playfulness.
Also, i'm really excited about our own-label. It's in its infancy but as a parent I've always felt there was a gap in the market for colourful, tonal staples for little kids; not everyone wants pink and princesses for her, blue and dinosaurs for him. Our own label clothing and bedding aims to fill that gap.
Any international expansion plans?
I’d say it’s inevitable, we’re online and people are already asking, but I’m keen to build the best possible experience for UK parents. I think not having the distraction of serving customers abroad helps keep us focussed on helping customers at home. We want to keep the shopping experience super simple; it’s important to us making things easy for parents.
What’s the hardest part of parenting in today’s busy world & how can KIDLY help?
Having time to cut through the noise and find the best advice and things for little ones. There’s too much choice out there, too much conversation and not enough time. It's hard to know who to trust and therefore what to buy, or where to buy it from.
That’s essentially why we decided to launch KIDLY, to help parents find the best things for their young kids. It’s about us finding things that are always genuinely useful, but also design-led - so our customers will love them too. It’s then about us making the whole experience effortless and doing it all with a smile on our faces.
Take a look at the new kid on the children's retail block: KIDLY.