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SunSmart opens up UV apparel category

The days of sending kids out to frolick in the sunshine without skin protection are long gone. It's now a given that parents slather the wee ones with sunscreen and pop a hat on their heads before sending them outside. Toronto, Canada-based SunSmart is taking things a step further with its souped up, licensed kids UV-blocking (SPF 50) swimsuits, coverups and rashguards, making the caregiver's task just a little less taxing. Moreover, the company may just be opening up a new kids licensing category in UV apparel.
August 1, 2006

The days of sending kids out to frolick in the sunshine without skin protection are long gone. It’s now a given that parents slather the wee ones with sunscreen and pop a hat on their heads before sending them outside. Toronto, Canada-based SunSmart is taking things a step further with its souped up, licensed kids UV-blocking (SPF 50) swimsuits, coverups and rashguards, making the caregiver’s task just a little less taxing. Moreover, the company may just be opening up a new kids licensing category in UV apparel.

SunSmart founder and president Joanne Speight says Canadian sales have been doubling year on year and she’s planning to expand into mid-tier outlets in the U.S. in 2007 with a little help from the Man of Steel. SunSmart inked its first North American-wide licensing deal with Warner Bros. Consumer Products for the Superman franchise earlier this year.

Realizing the proposed license might conflict with rights already granted to swimwear licensees, Speight says she pitched the product to WBCP as a new category called UV apparel and accessories.

So far the company’s produced Superman and Supergirl models. Both come complete with capes and should retail for around US$31. Superman rashguards (shirts with high necks that hug the body) for boys will also be part of the line.

Plans are in the works to add UV-sensitive features to subsequent editions as it’s possible to treat the fabric so words or symbols start to appear and become darker in color as UV exposure increases. Parents like the warning and kids just think it’s kind of neat, says Speight. ‘It’s a novel way of getting kids to wear UV protection.’

Currently the company’s product range covers kids sizes zero (infants) to 14, with prices ranging from US$41 for a baby coverup/blanket with footies and a hat to US$21 for surfer-inspired rashguards. The pieces also come with UV-ray-sensitive tags that change color when exposed to strong rays, alerting parents to apply more sunscreen or get their kids into the shade asap.

As for additional licenses, Speight admits boys product sales are four times as much as girls right now and she’s looking to redress the situation by using more girl-friendly characters. She’s scoping for evergreens that might lend themselves to the task and is planning on exhibiting at MAGIC this August to court more partners.

Speight started the company after finding UV kids swimsuits imported from Australia in local boutique for US$88 apiece – a bit pricey for something her young boys would grow out of quickly. However, the suits attracted attention from parents immediately and she started sourcing them herself for folks in the neighborhood in 1999. She went into the manufacturing business in 2001. The first SunSmart suits rang in at just under US$35 at retail. Things really took off when Speight got the suits into local children’s boutiques and the shop at the Paramount amusement park near Toronto. LC

About The Author
Lana Castleman is the Editor & Content Director of Kidscreen and oversees all content for Kidscreen magazine, kidscreen.com and related kidscreen events. lcastleman@brunico.com

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