Orchestra to Take a Bow in the U.S.

The French children's wear giant launches business Stateside

Orchestra, France’s biggest children’s wear and maternity retailer and the sixth-largest in the world, operates 700 stores in 40 countries. The company next month will launch its U.S. business with an e-commerce site and 4,000-square-foot store at King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pa.

Agathe Boidin, director and vice chairman of Orchestra, said the retailer hopes to build the chain to 500 stores, with 300 small units selling apparel for babies through size 16 girls and boys. The mall and strip center stores will average 4,000 square feet. About 200 larger stores, ranging from 25,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, will feature the full range of apparel as well as strollers, car seats and furniture.

Orchestra’s French styling — blue-and-white striped jumpers, denim overalls embroidered with flowers and dresses with an illustration of the Eiffel Tower along with sharp prices — should appeal to American customers, Boidin said. Prices for dresses, $23 to $29, are discounted 25 percent to club members who pay a $10 annual fee. Boidin said the company has more than 1.6 million members.

Prior to embarking on the U.S. expansion, Orchestra conducted a market survey, which found that 67 percent of children’s wear shoppers aren’t satisfied with the quality or design of products. The company, which posted sales of 609 million euros, or $782 million, last year, has the deep pockets to fund an expansion.

“In terms of design, there’s so much sameness,” Boidin said. “People are looking for good design.”

Boidin, who lists Carter’s, Old Navy, Children’s Place, Gymboree and Gap as competitors, is aware that physical retail is contracting in the U.S. “I know retail right now has some challenges,” she said. “There’s the Internet and Amazon. It was always like that. In 1995, when Orchestra launched, there were a lot of kids’ brands. Some of the brands that were really powerful at that time don’t exist now.

“A difficult period gives you some opportunities,” Boidin added. “Gymboree is having some problems and that might give some room to new brands. In the U.S, there are too many stores.”

Boidin chose King of Prussia because it’s high-profile and the fact that it features brands from Primark to Louis Vuitton.

The Orchestra executive admitted that the brand is unknown in the U.S. “For the moment, we’re unknown,” she added. “Our strategy is to use social media and bloggers to spread the word.”

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