What made you launch JustKidding in Dubai?
When my partner Patrick and his wife invited my wife and I to be godparents to their daughter, we wanted to get her a nice gift. They had this really ugly stroller and we wanted to get our goddaughter a decent set of wheels – a Bugaboo – so we asked them to take us to the best baby store in town. They took us to this store which was like a pre-war, East German baby shop. I was really surprised they had never heard of Bugaboo, yet we had been told you could get anything in Dubai. That’s true for most products, but for babies – in a country where people love to spend a lot of money on their children and where they have substantial disposable income – there was nothing.
You’ve been open for more than two years now and have a reputation for being one of Dubai’s pricier kids’ stores. Are you happy with how you’ve been received?
From day one it’s been a tremendous success. The market was definitely ready. People love the variety of products, their quality and originality. We realise we’re an upmarket store, but we focus on value for money. Yes, the price is higher, but you get a better design, a better product and a better service.
You stock all the chic brands, some very well-known, some more trendy and obscure. Where do you find these products?
Everywhere. I travel to Italy, Germany, the Netherlands... twice a year I go to Amsterdam to the Kleine Fabriek show – the hippest and most happening show in the world – and I also go to New York for the Bubble Trade Show. I get approached about three times a day from companies asking us to distribute their products, but usually I say no. Many of these brands are too small, and if we can’t guarantee that they meet safety standards, then it’s definitely a no-go.
What’s the most ridiculous kids’ product you’ve seen on your travels?
We decided not to go for the Swarovski crystal-studded highchair, and we’re not stocking a new stroller that unfolds with a remote control. If the product moves beyond the value-for-money range it becomes tacky. That’s not for us.
What’s your favourite item in the store?
My all-time favourite has to be the Bugaboo stroller. Its design, versatility and quality is fantastic. I also love the Boon products for their creativity and I like the Bloombaby highchair. Yes, it’s expensive, but people spend a fortune on interior design in their kitchens and dining rooms, then ruin it with a tacky plastic highchair. I wasn’t convinced our customers would [like it], but we’re really happy with how it’s selling.
What about your kids, Tijn (10) and Famke (7)?
My son Tijn loves the tree-house bed, and my daughter Famke is a big fan of the fashion range by Madonna.
Apart from the products, what makes JustKidding different?
If you look on our business cards, you won’t see ‘CEO’, but ‘mum and dad’. We’re proud of our parental expertise and we pass that on to our staff. Parents spend an hour and a half in our store, they see all the options and get great advice. Maybe they’ll spend more than they expected, but if they go to another baby store they’ll be very disappointed. In the end they want the best.
What’s next for JustKidding?
We’ll definitely open more stores [across the Middle East]. We’re considering opening some JustKidding boutique stores in Dubai selling a smaller range of our products and we’ve just launched a webshop, justkidding-me.com.
JustKidding, Al Quoz Industrial Estate Four (04 341 3922). Open Sat-Thu 10am-8pm; Fri 2pm-8pm. Accepts Visa and Mastercard