For children growing up in Oundle over the last 20 and more years, Kikisams has long been a favourite shop filled with the magic of playtime, brimming with toys to cherish. For their parents, it has been a much needed emporium for hard-to-find quality children’s clothes.
When Chandrika Swann moved to Oundle in 1994, there were no shops with children’s clothes, and she discovered the need for one when her son was born a year later. Before long, she decided to open Kikisams on West Street.
Although Mrs Swann had worked part-time in retail while at school, and had run a jewellery shop for three years during her 20s, working with children’s wear was new.
Her colleague, Niki Hodgson, began working with her when they met in the shop and became friends fifteen years ago. Mrs Hodgson used to shop for clothes for her own children in Kikisams. She now buys clothes at Kikisams for her grandchildren.
“The business is based around unique, good quality clothing,” Mrs Swann said. The shop opened in one room with designer baby clothing brands, such as Elle, Levi’s and Ralph Lauren. When Timberland launched its baby clothing brand in 1997, it proved so popular that people were “buying it out the box”.
Running a business over the long-term means Kikisams has evolved over the years. Mrs Swann follows the trends and keeps an eye on her changing customer base and their shopping preferences. She spends a lot of time going to exhibitions and shows to source the latest styles. Her aim is to be “a little different from the high street shops”.
Sustainability is important, and she stocks as many organic products as possible, particularly for young children. Her range extends from play and party wear for infants to young teens for both boys and girls.
Early success encouraged her to stock traditional wooden toys and Ty beanie babies, which helped her grow her business, and now the three rooms of her shop overflow with a huge selection of toys.
One of the most popular brands is TOPModel, a range of creative materials for anyone interested in fashion and styling. It has proven to be so popular that she has to order new stock at least once a month.
But the pleasure of owning a boutique shop is not only in choosing her stock, but in the relationships she has built over the years with her customers. She said: “I enjoy talking with customers, finding out what they need.”
Having a small shop is a virtue, because she can pack it with quality stock. “I have customers that have travelled from Scotland, France, Germany, Cambridge, Huntingdon and Oakham, because it’s a unique shop.”
Kikisams is a firm favourite for a new generation of parents who have fond memories of being in the same shop as a child, and who now return to treat their own children.
December 5, 2019