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One of the early lessons for new parents is that babies grow in spurts. While it may seem obvious, that knowledge doesn’t prevent ill-fitting clothes from accumulating in closets, dressers and boxes. If one can tolerate the long-term storage, a few shirts and pants might get additional use from siblings arriving a few years later.
A trio of German entrepreneurs — Dr. Alexander Reichhuber, Sebastian Schmoeger and Rob Rebholz — is addressing this problem. Their business, KinderStuff, designs and sells new clothes for children, ages 0 to 2. The co-founders also encourage sustainable consumption by facilitating the return of clothes after a family is done using them.
The concept came to them two years ago after Reichhuber complained about difficulties dressing his baby boy. “He said there were two problems,” Rebholz recalls. “First, premium clothing was very expensive. The second was that he was outgrowing his clothing all the time. Our solution was to sell clothes directly without a middleman, and to take the clothes back for free in exchange for discounts.”
Returned items are separated into two piles. Clothing that is too damaged, dirty or worn will be recycled. Most of the highest quality garments are targeted for KinderStuff’s online Hand-Me-Down store. However, the company also donates one-third of those salable items to a charitable organization that helps children, like SOS Children’s Village. In addition to paying for the shipping costs, KinderStuff encourages this cycle of re-use by rewarding customers with instant 10-20% discounts on future purchases.
The local emphasis is important to the KinderStuff mission. Although the co-founders are German, the charities chosen to receive the used clothes donations in the U.S. will also be local. Likewise, all of the original clothes are manufactured in the region they are shipped. KinderStuff has lined up American factories that will use only high-quality, organic materials.
“The cool thing about this is that we can be super fast,” explains Rebholz. “The normal retail cycles are almost a year. In our case, we can go from concept to consumer in less than four weeks.” This distribution path also helps reduce costs without the quality suffering, according to Rebholz. Comparable merchandise in apparel stores would run $25-40. KinderStuff is able to drop that price range as low as $15. At the moment, the clothing selection is limited to new babies through toddlers. Over the next six months, the company hopes to extend the sizes up to age six as well as offering a broader portfolio of garments.
KinderStuff isn’t the first company to recognize this parental pain point. StokeBox is a San Diego company that started organizing a community around boxing up and exchanging used clothes and toys. Members have to curate and list a box to be able to buy another one, for $5 plus postage. Unlike KinderStuff, StokeBox doesn’t create new items for sale.
The lifecycle of any given article of clothing will vary greatly with its owners, but given the way kids grow and the high quality of the Hand-Me-Down merchandise, it is not inconceivable to anticipate several owners before a shirt gets recycled. Although their German store has only been online for four months, Rebholz says they are seeing interesting patterns in how customers shop for clothes, freely mixing both new and used items when making their purchases.
Have a young geeklet in need of a change of threads? KinderStuff is offering GeekDad readers a discount code (“GEEKDAD“) to get a 15 percent discount off of their first purchase.