Little Big Crate helps parents shop without shopping

  • News
  • August 30, 2016
  • Sarah Dunn
Little Big Crate helps parents shop without shopping

Little Big Crate’s model is similar to successful overseas models such as mega-startup Rockets of Awesome. First, parents fill out a questionnaire which indicates their style preference. They then receive a crate filled with garments selected based on that preference. The items they choose to keep are charged to their credit card while the rejected clothing is returned.

Co-founder Melanie Lapalme says the business was launched “very quietly” in November last year.

“We really had no idea what the response was going to be like so we soft launched to try and get a gauge on demand, and then pretty swiftly had to close off for new customers because there was so much interest!”

The daughter she is bringing up with co-founder and wife Annette Cooper, Amelie, is now two and a half. Perhaps inevitably, Lapalme says, Amelie informs she and Cooper’s purchasing decisions: “We are aiming to increase our sizing as Amelie grows because frankly that makes our life easier!”

Image credit: @knottingbutlove

We asked Lapalme for more detail on Little Big Crate and the subscription box model.

Tell us about why the mail order model is so appealing to parents.

Shopping with children is not fun. They don’t want to browse and they don’t want try things on and they certainly don’t want to spend hours doing it. Mail order shopping means you miss out on all that and can get stuff sent straight to your door. It’s a no brainer.

Do you think the potential for ecommerce goods and services targeting families has been tapped out yet, or is there room for more start-ups like Little Big Crate?

I think what we are starting to see now is a change in the ecommerce space. I think the market is quite crowded for traditional ecommerce stores but we are starting to see a new wave of services, like Little Big Crate, that use the internet to sell through, rather than on. The real difference is that we are using the internet to sell a high value service rather than a range of products.

Traditionally people tend to come to the internet to try and find bargains or source things that they can’t find in stores. The huge number of online stores has now made that process really time-consuming as well and time is the one thing parents are short on. Little Big Crate takes all that hassle away by sourcing the best in handmade and sending it right to you.

Little Big Crate is pretty firmly located in the ecommerce space. Does a bricks and mortar presence appeal?

Something that we are really passionate about it creating a sense of community in the crazy whirlwind that is parenting, and so, bringing people physically together to do that is definitely part of our future plans. It’s unlikely that we will ever have an actual store, but we might look to host special dates, or pop- up shops to bring our customers together, show new clothes or designers and to get to know people better.   

The ‘styling’ component of Little Big Crate’s service is something different – what’s that about?

The styling component is the high value service we offer. We want to make the whole processes of dressing kids easier and that starts at sending a collection of things that will all mix and match well. Some of our customers want ‘special’ clothes for weddings and others want some statement pieces that they can pair with whatever plainer pieces they have in their wardrobe already. The only thing we haven’t figured out how to help with is actually getting clothes on toddlers any easier!

What kinds of questions does the style survey contain, and how do you use that to maximise the appeal of the crate’s items?

The style survey is designed to help us understand our customers and their little big people. It has questions about size/fit of clothing, colour preferences, if they are looking for particular items or if they have particular designers. That data is where we start our relationship, so we have lots of space for people to talk to us.

When we start building a crate, those answers are our guide. We also check through social media to see if people have liked or commented on any particular items through our feeds. We provide a crate feedback card as well, which is another opportunity for people to tell us about the products we have sent them.

For Annette, that’s all data that we can use to understand what people like, but we also apply a healthy amount of “professional shopping judgement” to the whole process.

Tell us about your suppliers. What do you look for in a supplier?

We have the coolest suppliers. We are passionate about supporting small, local businesses and are constantly delighted by the talented people who supply to us. Most of our suppliers are one-woman bands who sew during nap times, evenings and weekends as a way to supplement their family’s income, and be able to stay home with their children.

Relationships are at the centre of the Little Big Crate business model, so first and foremost we look for handmade and boutique New Zealand suppliers who we can have a relationship with. Little Big Crate sits in the middle of a three-way relationships. Our customers trust us to know what they will like, and we trust our suppliers to understand our requirements and send us beautiful things that will make our customers happy. We also look to partner with creative people who want to keep diversifying and creating new pieces in response to our customer feedback. Amy at Thomas Pie and Lauren at The Wandering Blush have been absolutely awesome at creating bespoke pieces including exclusive ranges just for Little Big Crate.

Is ethical sourcing a concern of yours?

Absolutely. We want to pay a fair price for clothing that is made by people who are paid a fair wage. Most of our stock is made in New Zealand and the items that aren’t made here we check carefully to make sure that it is made in an ethical way. At the other end of the process, the ethical disposal of that clothing (seconds or things that aren’t selling) is just as important as the sourcing so we are currently working out how to do that.

We don’t have sales because we would rather give away the clothing that doesn’t sell than mark it down just to clear it. We really care about making a difference for families, not just the families who are our customers.

What’s the next step for Little Big Crate?

The sky feels like it is the limit at this stage! We have a huge number of people with older children wanting to sign up and we want to keep growing as our customer grow, so we will be putting a Kickstarter up to raise capital to grow the sizes we sell (three and four to start with but up to six eventually). We have just started blogging on our website, as a way to keep connecting with our customers and we are always looking for ways to improve our service to meet the needs of kiwi families. Hopefully one day we might be able to expand into Canada (Melanie’s homeland).

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: How multi-level marketing works

The $200 million-plus direct sales economy contains many lessons retailers can use. As part of a wider look at this thriving corner of retail, we created a quick explainer showing how this business model typically works.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the upliners

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the upliners

We profiled different participants in the direct sales industry to find out what retailers can learn from them. Meet Isagenix distributors Adam Nesbitt and Bianca Bathurst.

Read more

Direct sales: Meet the business builder

  • News
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Direct sales: Meet the business builder

As part of a wider story looking at what retailers can learn from the direct sales industry, we profiled Isagenix distributor Ben Frost.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Leveling up: Exploring multi-level marketing in New Zealand

Is the $200 million-plus direct sales economy retail by another name or something different? Regardless, what can we learn from it?


A spectrum of retailers

  • Opinion
  • April 18, 2019
  • David Farrell
A spectrum of retailers

In recognition of April being Autism Awareness Month, retail commentator Dave Farrell considers the role of those on the spectrum in retail.

Read more

How on-trend is your retail business?

  • Sponsored Content
  • April 18, 2019
  • Sponsored content
How on-trend is your retail business?

New insights from Visa highlight five evolving trends emerging from savvy retailers around the world. We’ve taken these global trends and looked at how they are playing out with merchants in New Zealand, and we’d now like to hear what you think of them.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit