An innovative North East girlswear brand based on the concept of pick ‘n’ mix sweets has expanded into the US market.
Candy Queen, established by North Shields entrepreneur and mother-of-three Mel Buchanan in 2010, is now being stocked in the Sugar Factory at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
The brand offers T-shirts for girls aged three to 10, along with candy-themed ‘icons’, encouraging the youngsters to mix and match as they wish.
The Sugar Factory’s initial order, to be displayed on a concession stand, is for 77 T-shirts and 144 icons.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Buchanan said.
“Breaking into the US can be tough, but I’ll see how it goes.
“I’ll be getting a bi-weekly report on sales, and if it goes well, the clothes will also be sold at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino branch too.
“On the back of that, it would be good to get other US stores interested.”
The idea for Candy Queen was born when Buchanan was living in Bangkok and noticed the number of young people wearing Crocs shoes with charms they could pick and choose themselves.
Recognising that the idea could be transferred to T-shirts, she contacted a buyer for Fenwick in Newcastle on her return to the UK and went on to establish the brand there.
After a rebrand, Selfridges in London and various other retailers then took on the products, and since Buchanan was already acquainted with the Sugar Factory, having blogged about the company in the past, she made contact with a buyer there.
Featured on television programmes such as the Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the shop is known for its wide range of high quality confectionery that ranges from classics to the more inventive, such as candied ginger and dark chocolate-covered espresso beans.
The Sugar Factory also sells lollipops with crystal-studded handles and has a number of celebrity lines. Its fans include everyone from Katy Perry and Britney Spears to Rupert Grint.
The company has a number of sweet shops throughout the US, as well as restaurants in New York and Las Vegas.
It also stocks its own brand of clothes for youngsters, ranging from the Cupcake Beanie to the Candy Made Me Do It baseball cap, and stocks a number of accessory products, such as Candylicious Lip Gloss and Violent Lips Polka Dot Lip Tattoos.
“The buyer looked at the website and said she really liked the brand as it fitted in really nicely with what they were doing,” Buchanan said.
“Now, I’d love to branch out into more products.
“I’ve started having tutus, dresses and bags sampled.
“But I’ve been self-funded so far, so I’m trying to go down the investment route to keep the brand going.”
She added that while trading was tough at the moment, that should not hold people back.
“I think lots of people feel the time isn’t right,” she said.
“They feel there are too many obstacles in their way, but if you have an idea and you believe in it, then you’ve just got to go with it.”