How did Carter’s, a 154-year-old retailer, become the biggest biz in kids’ clothing?

The venerated Carter’s clothing company continues to dominate the kid’s clothing market as competitors struggle.


July 30, 2019

Across the baby-clothes business, companies are closing their doors: 1.7k kids clothing stores — including whole chains such as Babies ‘R’ Us and Gymboree — closed their doors last year.

But Carter’s, a baby clothing company founded in 1865, is booming: As other baby businesses have filed for bankruptcy, Carter’s revenue has grown for 30 consecutive years, The Washington Post reports.

Last year, Carter’s sold $3.5B worth of baby clothes…

Which is 2x what it sold 10 years ago. The company accounted for 28% of kids pajamas sales last year and 24% of baby clothes sales.

That’s because Carter’s isn’t picky about partnerships: The company sells directly through its own network of 1k stores, but it also sells its clothes at department stores and luxury malls. 

Carter’s also sells separate clothing lines through Walmart, Target, and Amazon — catering to both bargain and luxury buyers.

It’s a strategy that prioritizes big distribution over brand recognition

Carter’s creates “exclusive” lines for each partner: “Just One You” for Target, “Child of Mine” for Walmart, and “Simple Joys” for Amazon.

Each mini-brand is subtly tailored to the platform: On Amazon, Carter’s clothes are bundled to appeal to stockpiling super-savers; At Target, they come in splashier colors for impulse buyers.

By de-prioritizing its own brand name, Carter’s effectively transformed all its biggest competitors into new distribution channels. 

Now, as it continues to grow, Carter’s plans to expand its focus to offer threads for pre-teens.

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