Retail

Fair & eco: The concept of the zuckerfrei store

Interview with Jessica Schmidt

Spielwarenmesse:

Ms Schmidt, how did the idea behind zuckerfrei | Kids Concept Store come about?

Jessica Schmidt
Jessica Schmidt, founder of zuckerfrei | Kids Concept Store

Jessica Schmidt:

Well, after my daughter was born, I realised that I was missing something and there were several points that I wanted to include in my concept. Both the responsible handling of our earth’s resources and the working conditions during production are important to me. I often find wonderful and sustainable products on the market, however, often there is no way to find out more about the production conditions. That’s why 90 % of the products in my shop have been produced in Europe. A further matter close to my heart was to support smaller labels. I started out in the craftwork sector. My primary focus therefore has always been on smaller manufactures which, unfortunately, often get lost in the world of leading manufacturers and therefore need our support even more. 

Spielwarenmesse:

What other primary focus do you pursue with your product range?

Jessica Schmidt:

I wish to discourage gender marketing. The toy industry tends to clearly define gender categories. Through role play, children adopt societal roles, and their gender orientation is shaped by this even though society is currently opening up towards new role models. In times of mass production, elements in colourful children’s attire that are harmful to their health and toxic agents in toys, many parents are looking for children’s clothing of the best possible quality and toys that have no harmful impact on their children’s health. Our customers are people who wish to consume more consciously without having to forgo comfort and style.

Spielwarenmesse:

How do you go about sourcing the right products? Is it easy to locate companies that produce sustainable toys?

Jessica Schmidt:

I find almost all my products on Instagram. A wonderful tool to discover and find small manufacturers around the world and to be found yourself.
It just so happens that in the meantime, some manufacturers also find me as a retailer.

Spielwarenmesse:

What is your focal point when choosing products for your sustainable assortment?

assortment store
Insight into the assortment of the store

Jessica Schmidt:

Our product range includes many Berlin manufacturers, and we look forward to many more new additions from our beautiful city. We are largely a gift shop of the special kind and, as a concept store, serve many different areas. Not just children and their parents can find something here. Many of our customers do not have children and discover wonderful tableware, decorative lamps, and board games here. Our children’s clothing is produced in Berlin only, and our upcycling jeans are made directly here at the store.
Also, we have something for every budget. That is no easy task when dealing with fair trade things, but we are good at offering small presents and birthday gifts at a price range that is acceptable.

Spielwarenmesse:

What made you combine the shop in Neukölln with an online store? Was this set up from the very start?

Jessica Schmidt:

The online store was set up from the very beginning. But I see myself primarily in slow retail, including my passion for the retail trade in day-to-day life. Creativity when it comes to the product range, the shop design, and the dialogue with customers. It is important to me that my shop has an inimitable soul and to be available for customers here in the neighbourhood and surrounding area.
The pandemic severely impacted people’s buying behaviour. The online shop helped me to get through these times and ever since I cannot imagine being without it. Still, the competition is strong, and you need to actively crank up sales. Instagram is also a good medium to achieve a wide reach and become visible to ones' target groups.

Spielwarenmesse:

You equally adopt a sustainable approach when it comes to shipping online orders, right?

Jessica Schmidt:

Yes, our orders here at the online store are always shipped in pre-loved boxes that our dear neighbours collect for us. And even the other shops in the neighbourhood diligently collect their boxes for us. Of course, this requires more work, but we have by now become something of a hub where people get rid of used cardboard boxes. Since they would otherwise be torn up and recycled, it only makes sense for us to mobilise our neighbours. And we are quite surprised about the sheer number of boxes that are dropped off.

Spielwarenmesse:

Instagram and Facebook are a fixed aspect of the shop’s communication. What do you appreciate about this?

Jessica Schmidt:

I believe it’s crucial to remain authentic. Beautiful motifs and a personal style have recognition value. There are clearly more successful shops than mine. But is success defined purely by a huge number of followers? Instagram lives off the fun it gives from people using this tool, from living their creativity and for me especially, that I can engage in an exchange with my customers.

Spielwarenmesse:

 The shop window also plays a part in promotions. How did this come about? How important was it to include the neighbourhood?

store window
A look in the window of zuckerfrei | Kids Concept Store

Jessica Schmidt:

I love to network and to turn the city into a village. That is an easy thing to do here in Berlin with all its colourful hoods. The KinderKünsteZentrum, a centre for children’s art, and Young Arts is a considerable enrichment for our district. People know each other and connect with others. We therefore enjoy showcasing objects of art in our shop windows. zuckerfrei has been part of the festival that goes by the name of 48 Hours Neukölln for five years now. Our upcycling workshop is firmly anchored in the festival’s children’s programme. We create jewellery and other beautiful things for children’s daily life on this day using pre-loved materials.

Spielwarenmesse:

Ms Schmidt, thank you for the interview.

Info

Toys go green at the Spielwarenmesse 2022

Learn more about sustainable products or toys that teach children environmental awareness through play. Visit the special Toys go Green area in hall 3A in the Exhibition Centre Nuremberg from 2 - 6 February 2022.
 
Information on Toys go Green 

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