It’s been nine years since Kids Wholesale Clothing bounded onto the babywear scene and six years since the company made its debut at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! P&P editor Melanie Attlesey sat down with directors and brothers Sukh and Onkar Singh to talk all things kids and babywear.
Clothing and textile supply has been in the Singh family line of work for decades. Sukh and Onkar’s father Billa and grandfather Sohan ran a market trading and wholesaling business for many years, until trade began to dry up in the early 2000s.
The business began in 1983 under the name SSR Fashions, selling ladies and kids clothing via market stalls across the country. Up until 2003 this also included printing T shirts in the thousands and selling them onto resellers via the cash and carry route.
It was actually a customer’s suggestion that pointed the family in the direction of baby blanks. She wanted some blank blankets and bibs, as she noted that printed versions of these were being sold on eBay and wanted to print her own. The family saw a gap in the UK market for blank garments and so the move into baby and kidswear was made.
A fledgling business
Kids Wholesale Clothing as it is known today began life in 2010 with the launch of an e-commerce website. In the age of the internet when search terms mean everything, a new, more meaningful name was needed. The web designer at the time suggested a name that was self-explanatory and one that would come top of anyone’s search for blank childrenswear online. So Kids Wholesale Clothing was born. And the name does exactly what it says on the tin.
“I remember the day we received our first online order as clear as anything. My dad was screaming down the phone because he was so thrilled! We knew we were on to something then. When we look back at our first e-commerce website from 2010, we cringe. Our current website shows how the business has grown and developed over the years. The launch of the e-commerce website literally opened the floodgates for us,” says Sukh.
The babywear and childrenswear industry is currently booming and Kids Wholesale Clothing is certainly reaping the benefits. “The first year we exhibited at Printwear & Promotion LIVE! our stand was swamped, which showed the demand for the product. We recall having to stand in the aisles so visitors could get on stand to see our product range,” explains Sukh. This year Sukh and Onkar, along with their brother Aman, exhibited with their biggest ever stand, and the response from visitors was fantastic. “We had a mixture of new customers coming on to our stand who didn’t realise we were regular exhibitors and current customers popping on stand to say hello. A bigger presence has definitely proved beneficial,” says Sukh.
Today in the market there are several other companies looking to take their own share of the babywear market – snapping at the heels of Kids Wholesale Clothing. “When we put new styles out, other companies swiftly follow six months with similar styles. We see competition as healthy for business,” says Sukh.
New garments ahead
Sukh and Onkar are tight lipped about what the season ahead will bring in terms of new garments, but are keen to stress that new garments are certainly in fruition, along with a new photo shoot planned for the end of the year to showcase the new products in all their glory. Kids Wholesale has recently employed a designer, who has worked with some big high street names, to help move the product range forward and to keep garments on-trend with current retail fashions. A lot of new products become permanent additions to the range following customer demand.
All of these highly-anticipated new products, along with Kids Wholesale Clothing’s current range, are manufactured in India. This allows Kids Wholesale Clothing to keep costs down, while taking advantage of the skills available that don’t exist within the UK.
“We moved our manufacturing overseas in 2016. We were scared to do it, I do admit. At the time there was such a big push for made in Britain products in the media and within the industry, but we felt we had no choice. It was a necessity in order to expand our product range and to keep our prices competitive.
“It would be lovely to manufacture in the UK, but the skill set just isn’t there. The machinists in India are able to produce more convoluted types of garments such as our fleece dungarees with ease,” explains Sukh.
Customers that have been with Kids Wholesale Clothing from the days of SSR Fashions will recognise the bodysuit as one of the company’s maiden garments. Available initially 16 years ago in pink, white, blue and lemon, the bodysuit is now available in 21 different colours, including khaki, which was introduced recently to meet fashion demands. “The bodysuit is certainly one of our more popular products,” says Onkar.
Speaking of the colour khaki, Onkar adds that when they added the colour to their range of sweatshirts, 3,000 sold out within two to three days, proving the popularity of the colour. Customers are now waiting for more stock to arrive. “Sometimes we have to turn down orders from customers who want to order our entire stock of certain products to allow smaller businesses the opportunity to purchase these items. It’s certainly a lovely problem to have,” says Sukh.
All of Kids Wholesale Clothing’s products have to be stored somewhere once they arrive in the UK from India and currently these are split across three warehouses in the Leicester area. The team moved into its newest warehouse in January 2017, after completely gutting the place and rekitting it with shelving and racking in the warehouse, along with creating fresh office space. The ultimate long term plan is to amalgamate all three warehouses into one totalling around 25,000sq ft to 30,000sq ft within the Leicester area.
A family business
Sukh has always been involved with the family business, but Onkar was a little bit more hesitant about joining the family trade. He joined the business in 2011 after graduating from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in Criminology and Sociology, with a little push from older brother Sukh.
He says: “I was adamant I wasn’t going to work in the business. I never thought I would be this passionate about kidswear after leaving uni. However, I’m putting the effort in and I’m enjoying seeing the return.”
Sukh adds: “It’s very much a grind, but we enjoy what we do. We know the business inside out and still get a huge buzz from what we do. The growth in the business is just phenomenal and hopefully will remain that way for many years to come.”