Kirkland children's clothier Kate Quinn Organics proves that despite major economic worries, environmental concerns still matter to some shoppers.
Kirkland children’s clothier Kate Quinn Organics proves that despite major economic worries, environmental concerns still matter to some shoppers.
The company is on pace to sell $1.6 million in organic-cotton clothing and bedding this year, the same as last year, according to founding owner Kate Quinn. When most retailers consider flat sales the “new up,” Quinn says she must be doing something right.
“People who like it really like it, and they don’t put their kids in much else,” she said. “We still get $1,000 orders online.”
The company’s products are made in India with organic cotton, meaning the crop was grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and under “fair trade” regulations designed to promote decent work conditions.
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Prices range from $22 for an infant’s puff-sleeve bodysuit to $62 for a kimono-dress outfit — more or less in line with such upscale, mainstream brands as Hanna Andersson and Janie and Jack.
Chicago research firm Mintel found in a recent nationwide survey that 36 percent of adults “almost always” or “regularly” buy eco-friendly products. That’s the same percentage as last year, suggesting that consumer interest in eco-friendly products has leveled off since a big surge between 2006 and 2008.
Analyst David Lockwood said the green shopping movement probably won’t pick back up until consumers feel more secure about their personal finances. “Consumers are cutting back on spending in almost all categories right now, so any category that’s holding its own is doing a good job,” he said.
Quinn attributes her success to clothes that she describes as not just eco-friendly, but also reasonably priced and durable. “I wouldn’t want to be selling $48 onesies right now,” she said.
Quinn sells to about 400 specialty stores in the United States, Europe and Asia. She also sells to consumers online at www.katequinnorganics.com and at her Kirkland warehouse, where she employs eight people.
Quinn, 31, came up with the idea for an oganic-cotton clothing company five years ago after struggling to find all-natural, baby-shower gifts. She used $1,000 in personal savings to buy 200 organic infant onesies from a factory in India, then sold them on eBay and Craigslist for $3,200.
“People loved them,” she said. “My first wholesale accounts found me on Craigslist. They must have just been looking for their kids, and they were like, ‘You know, I have a store. Can I carry you?’ “
In 2006, she quit her job as a nanny and devoted herself full time to Kate Quinn Organics. Sticking to a pay-as-you-go strategy has helped in the current credit crunch, she said. “We never borrowed a dime to pay our staff or rent. I paid $500 for my original Web site, and we replaced it when we could.”
Quinn, who has a 7-month-old daughter, Ruby Jean, recently expanded the company’s product mix to women’s activewear and skin-care lotions.
Soon, she’ll introduce maternity clothes and possibly a separate children’s line for nationwide retailers, including Nordstrom. The maternity line will be made in Southern California — her first foray into U.S. production.
“We want to cut our carbon footprint even more,” she said.
— Amy Martinez
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or email@example.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org