Since the beginning of April 2021, Baby Harbour has been open, a unique shop by the Katwijk harbour with a nearby fabric shop owned by the same owners. And this offers many advantages to both the shops and customers. By Carola Siksma-Ruiters, editor-in-chief of the Dutch trade magazine “BabyWereld”.
Owner Ellen Schut was trained as a paediatric nurse, mother of four children, who regularly assisted in the work of husband Wim, who ran two fabric shops and took part in fabric shows in the Benelux. So this was pretty tough. Ellen: ‘I never did this reluctantly and I like to tackle things, but from one moment to the next I was at home dealing with a burn-out’. After a long period of recovery, she took up the activities of the Holland Stoffenhuis webshop. One thing led to another. A friend found old rattan cradles that we upholstered with the most beautiful fabrics from the shop and resold them. This was followed by playpen covers and blankets, which went very well. It turned out that there was a demand in this region and when this building became available we did not hesitate.’ The fact that this was during the corona pandemic did not stop them. Ellen: ‘Oh no, I couldn’t sleep, I just wanted to open on April 2 and get started!’
No clear-cut plan
A funny incidental circumstance: the fabrics shop at number 5 is in the same building as the baby specialty shop Bebel used to be. There was no clear-cut plan for the shop. ‘Initially, the fabrics for baby and children’s rooms were moved to the new premises at number 8, but that didn’t work out. Because for yarn, tape and other haberdashery, you had to go to the fabric shop again. We came across baby products through one of our fabric representatives. We decided to just start with that.’
By now, there is a Happy Baby room, dresser and bed from Done by Deer, various rattan cradles and dolls’ carriages from Aangeenbrug’s Rotan Meubelfabriek, luxury buggies from Leclerc, toys from Quut, furnishings from Baby’s Only, Snoozebaby, Witlof for kids, Mies & Co, crockery from Mushi and Done by Deer and various clothing brands such as Bamboom and Musli. There are not many hard goods in the shop. According to Ellen, this was a conscious decision because she did not want to compete with the large baby specialty shops.’
A private workshop with fabrics from Holland Stoffenhuis
Unique are the ordinary and playpen blankets, little sheets, and clothing, made in our own workshop with the fabrics from their own Holland Stoffenhuis and the label from Baby Harbour. We have also entered into a collaboration with By Fabiënne Babymusthaves. Parents can find many different handmade baby items and maternity gifts here, such as a baby nest, playpen rug, changing pads, etc. These can be personalized with an embroidery or print as desired. ‘The other day a customer was here who bought various baby room decorations and had hydrophilic cloths made by from our fabric shop. These are then made for the customer by our own staff, who are all skilled sewers.’
In Baby Harbour, Ellen stands together with Arina; the fabric shop has 5 employees. In the few months that they have been open now, they have noticed a growing demand for larger clothing sizes up to 2 years, which is why more of them have been purchased. She has good contact with all suppliers. Ellen: ‘It is a world of difference with the fabric industry. They all make follow-up calls, ask how things are going and they are very helpful. They gave us suggestions to start with and didn’t stuff us with products.’
Lots of customers from the fabric shop
Customers come mainly from the region through word-of-mouth advertising, Instagram, local publicity and cooperation is still being sought with midwives. Since Baby Harbour is located at the harbour (at the Zwaaikom, where the boats used to turn to sail back), tourist boats also regularly moor here so that people can have a drink and do some shopping. There is also a lot of custom from the fabric shop. Ellen: ‘In Katwijk, all generations are skilled sewing machine operators’. She adds: ‘People here are also quite loyal to local entrepreneurs. We don’t make a fuss about exchanges; if people are in doubt about a colour of canopy, we say: take it with you, see what fits best at home and pay us later. Afterwards, we see the grandparents of this customer coming back for a present. That is how it works here. We also don’t mind if customers want to make something themselves and come here to see how it’s done. It’s a win-win situation for both our shops.’
Customers who buy a little more from them get something extra. ‘I am not one for discounts, I prefer to give you a little something instead. Like our rattles with the Baby Harbour logo on them, which are a great success.’ At Baby Harbour, customers can also reserve a basket in which to put their desired presents for the expectant mother. They certainly notice that the birth rate is going well. More fabrics are also sold for baby and children’s rooms.
When shopping, Ellen goes for good things from Europe. ‘Just like in our fabric shop, we pay attention to sustainability and certified fabrics. Our products are made from organic cotton, bamboo or from recycled fabrics or have a good story. It comes with a higher price tag, but we support it and in return we can offer our home-made articles a bit cheaper.’
Baby Harbour also has an online shop, but the personal contact with customers, wrapping presents – that is what makes Ellen’s heart beat faster. ‘Don’t forget that getting married and having children are very important moments in a person’s life!’ she reports. Her goal in a few years? ‘That everyone in the Katwijk area knows about the existence of Baby Harbour!’