Smart Move for Julie Ann As Outfits for Communion Open Up Whole New Horizon

Co Tyrone childrenswear shop Funky Kids is increasing the number of brands it stocks and adding a new range of Communion dresses in a move to reach out to a different market.

Owner Julie Ann Derby (31) said she is hoping to attract a wider range of customers to her Dungannon and Cookstown stores.

The decision to include the Communion range was driven by demand from customers.

“A lot of people were ringing the store asking for First Communion dresses and Confirmation wear,” Julie Ann said.

“I also wanted to stock dressier clothes and classy shirts. Before, we had none of that and were missing out on a big market.”

A Communion dress and accessories made by a top designer can cost up to £800, she said.

And the increasing hype around the event sees many parents spend staggering amounts on their children’s special day.

Julie Ann said she had invested a considerable amount in the range, ranging in price from £140 to £275. According to retailers, the short ‘bride-style’ dresses are the most popular.

Previously, the shop only stocked items by Name It, a casualwear design house, but Julie Ann now realises there is a niche in smarter outfits and has set aside a whole corner of the shop for the new range.

“Every town has a Next, but there are not a lot of places to buy something different for kids. And by bringing new brands in I’ll be increasing the amount of choice for customers,” Julie Ann added.

The new brands include names like Dirkje, Mimpi, Rosalita Senoritas, Bimbuf, Tuc Tuc and UBF.

Julie Ann said she always wanted to run her own business and took over the store aged just 23. Funky Kids was set up in 2008 when she took over a branch formerly owned by another childrenswear chain.

Julie Ann started to work for the company as a sales adviser after her two children were born, but stepped up to take over the store when its previous owner announced she was thinking of selling.

At one point Julie Ann ran five stores, but took the decision to close three due to poor trade in those areas.

She has four members of staff, plus her two sons who she uses to model her range.

Julie Ann admits she hopes to open another store in Belfast, but is hesitant because this is a market she has not been in before.

She is also investing in a team to run her website, as a large number of orders and sales are made through her Facebook page.