The FINANCIAL — From seven square meters to eight stores – this summarises the 15 years of dynamic development of children’s clothing store Bebe + which this year was recognized as the Golden Brand of Development by prestigious experts in Georgia.
Nana Chitava, the Director of Bebe +, started this business with her sister Inga Chitava 15 years ago with a seven square meter store in Bazroba (a big open air market in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi). Today Bebe + has six stores in Tbilisi, one in Batumi and another one in Kutaisi.
Bebe + provides clothes for children from 0 to 15 years. The clothes are imported from Dubai and are all original brands. Now the brand’s stores have opened on Chavchavadze Avenue, Pekini Street, in Gldani Mall, Karvasla shopping centre, Kidobani shopping centre, and on Agmashenebeli Street.
Prices start from GEL 8 for a shirt, GEL 20 for trousers, and GEL 15 for a dress. The maximum price in Bebe + stores is GEL 55 – for shoes and special dresses. Today, all the leading brands that produce children’s clothes can be found under the roof of one store – Bebe +.
“In that little space which I had in Bazroba there was everything – a trading table, coloured laminate walls, bubbles, a logo – everything. The space was decorated in such a way to catch the eyes of children. I managed to attract more and more children and I have found them to be the most lovely, tasteful and loyal customers,” Chitava said.
Success in the childrenswear market means understanding the industry and your place in it, believes Chitava. She says hard work and an honest approach to “the most sincere customers” (children) will never escape attention. In her words, it is exactly this that has brought the Golden Brand Award to the company.
“We were named the most dynamically developing company, which is a big honour for us. We have been operating on the Georgian market for 15 years. This result of recognizable development came from a great deal of hard, hard work.
“When we started this business we only thought of offering customers such clothes that I or my children would want to wear. We were not thinking about making a profit or building a successful business. Our honest approach to customers brought this unconstrained success. I know the taste of Georgian customers and I know the average solvency rate. So the style and prices which Bebe + offers customers are very catchy.
“Another reason for our success is our cohesive team. I still have employees in the stores who started working at Bebe + from the initial opening of the first store. They are very loyal. They love the brand, their work, children and everything that they do. I appreciate their attitude towards my business, which has become our business already,” Chitava said.
“Today Bebe + holds Golden Brand Award status together with leading companies like Nikora, PSP, Geocell, Kula and Barambo. These companies have been enjoying Golden Brand Award wins for years already. As for Bebe +, it is a newcomer to Golden Brand, along with Rexona, Dirol, Pampers, LC Waikiki, Caucasus Travel and Caparol,” she added.
Q. You have been operating on the Georgian market for 15 years already. You started almost from zero and have now turned into one of the most dynamically developed companies in Georgia. What are the challenges facing Bebe + today in continuing its dynamic development?
A. The first challenge, which I hope is temporary, is the devaluation of Georgia’s national currency the Lari.
We all know that the Lari has depreciated against the US dollar by 30 percent. This has affected not only businesses but every citizen of our country. I understand that external factors caused the Lari’s devaluation and I also see the Government is doing its best to solve this problem. Meanwhile, it remains a challenge for us. Taking into account the small market-place and low solvency ratio of Georgian customers you can understand how the Lari’s devaluation decreased sales in general.
However, we are managing to achieve our goal and increase sales, not as dynamically as was planned, but still to experience growth.
Another challenge for Bebe + is its lack of PR and marketing activities. Years ago I was fighting against the market to conquer it and position myself firmly. But today I have to compete against brands that are more famous and well-known among Georgian customers. For this purpose we plan to increase our PR and marketing activities from this year.
The third challenge is that in Georgia the majority of brands develop themselves by winning customers over from other brands. This is not fair, but you cannot control the process. Instead of developing their brands they try to hamper their competitors’ business. Everyone should be oriented on the development of their own brand. This is the way that Bebe + works. We want to be a successful, dynamic, favourite store and we are doing our best to achieve this goal. It is sad to see how others are trying to make us involved in unfair competition practice.
Additionally, it would be better if customers think about supporting local, Georgian businesses. Our income and profit would then remain in our country, and go into the budget. Foreign businessmen take their profit from Georgia to their countries. Just think about it.
Q. How are you planning to continue the development of Bebe +?
A. We plan to open new stores and modernize the existing ones.
I am not yet going to bring in new products, new sorts of clothing, because there is already plenty of variety of children’s clothes. I experiment with clothes that are in demand. For example, people used to ask us to bring more dresses into our stores. So we started to bring in Indian dresses which are now in great demand. We also started cooperation with the Polish company Tutu, which produces caps, hats, headbands and hair accessories.
I want to offer better service to our customers, and so we started working on this direction.
In general, I see the future as very bright. The childrenswear market is developing in Georgia. People say that mothers are more likely to not buy something for themselves, but definitely buy some nice and good quality clothes for their children. Because of this, there are always customers who come and buy clothes at Bebe +.
Me and my sister have six sons and I know what it means to choose good quality clothes for them. As a mother I am also a customer, so I know best what Georgian mothers want to buy for their children. And because of my four children I also know what children would like to wear. This helps me to choose the exact sorts of collections that will be popular and attractive for our customers.