Mothercare – Did They Just Stop Caring?
Another week in retail another bout of handwringing as an iconic brand and highstreet giant falls to its knees, it’s the fault of the internet, Brexit, millennials …
Is it though? Or is it just a harsh fact that some of these retail giants got too big and lost sight of their customers?
As a target demographic I think new parents are almost ideal. Sleep deprived, bewildered and suddenly in charge of the life of a small person whose wellbeing means no expense can be spared, they are surely a marketer’s dream.
And the products they need car seats, buggies, high chairs and all the myriad baby gear is exactly the sort of thing you need advice on. Front facing, rear facing, isofix, it’s a whole new language and while you can research online seeing the product in real life and getting advice from a real person who knows what they are talking about is invaluable.
Also as a parent of a small child I now go to places I wouldn’t have considered before like: Ikea, nasty chain pubs, Asda at opening time (join the queue of mums with buggies) because you need to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE and these places are warm, even better if they have seats, play areas and double bonus if you can get a plate of meatballs.
So it may be controversial but I think Mothercare just stopped caring about parents. My experience with a bawling newborn was that it was big, expensive and service was not forthcoming. If I hadn’t had my own mother with me directing operations I would have given up long before my life changing purchase of a lightweight buggy which finally allowed me to get out of the house easily, rather than trying to navigate the beast of a travel system that I had previously purchased.
I didn’t know that you needed to be able to fold a buggy with one hand, that babies needed to lie flat, that most buggies were only suitable from 6 months up, that isofix wasn’t a type of glue, but I learnt and my baby and that unicorn & rainbows buggy have literally travelled miles since then, but it wasn’t really thanks to Mothercare.
The other interesting thing is that their international business, a franchise model is successful possibly because they are still close to their customers and business owners are more motivated to provide the level of service that consumers expect as the offline advantage.
As I finished writing this the news that Mammas and Papa have also gone into administration broke, really the same lessons apply they just had even more expensive products.
Rather than a retail crisis the opportunity is ripe for a new player who can combine expertise, service, family centred stores, user friendly online offering, and a high quality and good value product range.
Let’s see who cares.