Bombay Co. Enters Kids Furnishings Market With Site, Catalog

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Competition in the children's furnishings market is expected to heat up with specialty furniture retailer Bombay Company Inc.'s plans to launch bombaykids.com and a catalog complement.


Bombaykids.com goes live Monday, followed by a Sept. 17 catalog drop. Both will vie for share in a children's furnishings market crammed with recent entrants like Pottery Barn Kids, The Company Store, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Neiman Marcus.


"One of our biggest strengths is sourcing, and the kids market is one of the larger ones, so it's using some of our sourcing expertise and expanding it into the kids market," said Michelle Ballauf, Internet director at Bombay Co., Fort Worth, TX.


The site will sell classic-style bedding and textiles, furniture, rugs, wall décor items and accessories -- 200 SKUs, in all. A similar array will be featured in the 24-page catalog. The first catalog drop will be 450,000, followed by another drop on Oct. 29. There are no immediate plans to sell the line in stores.


Created for children ages 4 to 12, the products are priced to attract Middle America. For instance, an accent pillow costs $29, a sheet set $69, a metal bed for $299 and a similar sticker price for a desk.


"We will be targeting some of our existing Bombay customers that have children, as well as we've got some outside lists," Ballauf said.


Bombay Co. traditionally attracts an upscale audience for its British colonial furniture. Its demographic is 78 percent female with a median age of 48, with 38 percent 25 to 44 years old. The median income is $73,000, 82 percent own homes, 68 percent are married and 33 percent are households with children.


A teaser campaign on bombaycompany.com already has attracted 3,700 people to sign up for online news of Bombay Kids or the catalog. Clicking on a frog icon takes a visitor to a place-holder page that says, "We're tickled to introduce BombayKids.com. Click here for more information."


The frog link will stay on bombaycompany.com even after bombaykids.com is operating.


"We sell him in the catalog, and we wanted to have fun," Ballauf said. "I think the frog is fun, it's cute, it's refreshing, and people are just clicking to find out what it is."


A 4-foot stuffed floppy frog floor pillow, the green character with a crown on its head, is $99.


Bombaykids.com will get support from a $3,000 online sweepstakes, e-mails to 10,000 12-month names on the house files and advertising on MSN. In fact, MSN is also building a kids furniture subcategory to go along with the launch.


Combined, the Internet and catalogs make up about 3 percent of Bombay Co.'s sales, with shoppers preferring to buy at the 415 stores in the United States and Canada.


Like many retailers, Bombay Co. has been hurt by the sluggish domestic economy. The company registered a net loss of $3 million on sales of $90.4 million for the three months that ended May 5. However, sales for the three months were up 6 percent, compared with the same period last year.


In this climate, the retailer is taking the opportunity to prospect for new business, particularly with the debut of its children's furniture line. An example is the marketing outreach for the Bombay Kids catalog.


"It's going to be particularly sent to people in our own house files, but as well we're going to be using the usual lists and modeling and list exchanges to find additional support," said Cathy Pringle, vice president of marketing at Bombay Co.


"Since it's a new business, we're not sure of every list and every segment that will be falling in love with the Bombay Kids catalog, so we're going to try a bunch of different lists in addition to our own," Pringle said.


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