Mothers who nurse their babies do so for an average of two and a half months—so a catalog of specially designed garments for breastfeeding moms would seem to have a small window of opportunity in which to sell.
But customers of Motherwear in Northampton, MA, nurse an average of 16 months. Why? Partly because they love the clothes so much, according to what they tell company President Jody Wright.
In the first three-quarters of the year Wright and her husband Prakash Laufer started producing the catalog, sales growth topped 350 percent.
Prior to taking over the helm of Motherwear in 1986, Wright had worked in graphic design and says she liked designing clothes while in school.
“Business-wise, my only experience was as a member of a workers’ collective at a food co-op,” she says. The facets of Wright’s life—graphic and clothing design and breastfeeding advocacy/education—are reflected in the character of Motherwear’s catalog and community-resource materials.
The catalog offers free breast-feeding informational guides to customers; it also includes phone numbers for consultation services and other resources as well, making it more than just a place to buy clothes.
How does a small catalog company of 65 employees publish a first-class book with a creative team of three?
An Organic Circle
First, the creatives and others at Motherwear work symbiotically. Though merchandising and marketing are separate departments, their offices are all situated in a ring around a main room with a big table in the middle. In a conference room off to the side, meetings between the two departments take place.
“The fish bowl set-up leads to lots of communication that wouldn’t happen if everybody was in offices lining a narrow hall,” observes Wright.
She says many of its best employees have sought out Motherwear as a supportive atmosphere for breastfeeding. The fact that about eight employees are currently nursing, and others have in the past, means lots of first-hand knowledge of customer needs.