Cécile Roederder’s Parisian family lifestyle concept store, Smallable, was her very first baby. Seeing a gap in the market for parents, she launched Smallable before having children – an unusual but shrewd move – and now is mother to two children, two boutiques, and a booming online business that’s been likened to the Net-A-Porter of family shopping...
From womenswear, design, and decor to baby needs and children’s clothing, Smallable has made the notoriously tricky ‘clicks and mortar’ model, of online and in-store retail, work. And work beautifully.
“My children have enabled me to see more concretely what is important for them, which has helped me make the right choices”, Cécile says of her role with Smallable. “In addition, my husband, with whom I work, helps me a lot in my daily life. We really do share the load together.” Together, they’ve created a lifestyle that manages to find the balance between hard work and truly enjoying life.
“We regularly go away for the weekend and often take advantage of a few days by the sea or in the countryside to recharge our batteries together. Every summer, we go with friends to Formentera to a big house with all our children. It’s a little island that has remained authentic, which I like. It still has a number of wild coves and the way of life there is perfect for de-connecting. Otherwise, when we are at home, we like cooking together a lot, playing board games (our weekend ritual!), and taking long walks in Paris.”
Cécile shared with us the trials and tribulations of running a family business (in every sense of the word), her must-have baby products and favourite childrens’ fashion, and her lust-worthy list of current loves. Prepare for the urge to drop everything and fly directly to Bon Temps Patisserie – followed by a visit to Smallable, of course.
So much has changed and grown with Smallable since we last spoke! The online business has ventured into womenswear and home, and you now have two stores in Paris, a family concept store and baby store. Can you explain the brand’s growth over the last few years?
Yes, thanks so much for noticing! In 2015, we opened our first concept store in Paris, it was something our customers really wanted and kept asking. Regarding our womenswear selection, it has grown over the past few seasons with the introduction of beautiful brands such as Roseanna, See by Chloé, Masscob, Ulla Johnson, A.P.C, Jérôme Dreyfuss, Mara Hoffmann, Momoni and The Great. From the beginning, we offered décor and furniture for children’s rooms. Gradually, we noticed that our customers, who tended to be parents, really liked our selection and wanted to find things for themselves. We listened to them and have since extended our range to furniture, design and décor for all the family and all the home. We have also reinforced our position in the world of baby care with the opening of our boutique dedicated solely to babies and baby care, and the release of The Great Birth Guide, a publication designed to accompany future parents during their baby’s first year. Going forward, over the next few years, I’d really like to expand upon Smallable’s international development, particularly in the United States and the Asia-Pacific region.
Did you always plan to move into bricks and mortar stores after building the online brand?
We had the opportunity to open our boutique in Paris, in the St-Germain-des-Près neighbourhood, and really fell in love with the unusual industrial-loft-like spirit of the place. The condition for opening the boutique was that it needed to reflect our universe, the one we created online, so our customers could see the products in real life. Like the site, it is a “one-stop-shop” – you can go there to discover new creators and brands, and our collection of products is always being updated regularly. If a product is not available in-store, we have a digital hub where you can order the product online and have it delivered free of charge. Our customers also come to us for advice. We help them to create living spaces from A to Z (a child’s room, a living room, etc.) or to create a gift registry list for their pregnancies and new babies. We wanted to test the ‘omnichannel’ experience. Even though the ‘click and mortar’ idea doesn’t work for all pure players, in our case, it makes sense.
You started Smallable before you had children, and now you have two - son Charles and daughter Nina. Do you think having children has changed your focus or business plan at all? If so, how?
My children have enabled me to see more concretely what is important for them, which has helped me make the right choices. Charles is 9-years-old and Nina’s a little over 2-years-old, so they don’t have the same needs. In fashion, I have always paid special attention to the quality of materials and cuts, which I do now even more so. The same goes for other areas. I play with my children, test our new products and they inspire me every day. The birth of my daughter pushed me to seek out skincare and body products adapted to her. Putting away my son’s tonnes of books – he loves to read – helped me find the perfect bookshelf and so on… Nevertheless, I am still 200% invested in Smallable, but also in my family. Especially since my husband, Pierre, works with me at Smallable.
Smallable is often compared to Net-a-Porter and you have spoken about your admiration for them as an online business. How have you stayed on top of the game in terms of children’s online retail and where do you seek inspiration and education for continued success?
Thank you for the compliment. That means a lot to me. Smallable is constantly evolving and renewing the brands, products and services we offer. We listen to our customers and regularly conduct surveys with them to get their take. From this we know they come to us to discover new products, so that’s what we offer them: every season we find and present new brands and a number of exclusives. We have more than 250 new products arriving every week. In terms of inspiration, I find new creators and brands on Instagram and during trade shows. Plus, my team and I are constantly on the lookout for what customers want, market developments, technical developments for the site, trends in customer experience, etc. It’s important to note that we try to innovate constantly and to question ourselves regularly to improve what we do. For example, we have noticed and seen first-hand the evolution of customers towards more responsible, ethical and eco-friendly consumption. Since the launch of Smallable, we have always chosen “green” brands, but seeing as this awareness continues to grow among our customers, we decided to create our “Greenable” label to group together brands that are doing things differently so people can find them quickly and easily on our site.