How long have you been established and how has the industry changed in that time?
Baby UK has been established just over 2 years now; we were previously known as 4 Littleuns & Baby, until we acquired the name Baby UK Ltd in June 2009. We moved location into a large and busy national retail park, trading alongside the likes of M&S, Tesco, Vodaphone, Mothercare, Game and O2. In the short time we have been in the industry we have already seen a big change towards customers being happy to buy from the internet to save a few pounds.
There seem to be large internet companies out there (not naming any names) who are hell bent on selling baby equipment at the cheapest possible prices, all competing against each other. It seems that the independents these days are often a showroom for all those internet sellers who are trading from their garden shed or small industrial units with very little over heads. This is a typical example of what is going on: You have a piece of equipment with an RRP of say £499; the independent has this in their store at the RRP of £499 or maybe with a little discount, £475. The independent has to remember that he has higher over heads so needs to sell as close to the RRP as possible. The customer sees this piece of equipment for £375 on the internet but would like to see the item in the flesh before committing to a purchase, so off they go to their nearest stockist to have a good look at the item and get a possible demo of it. After this they decide they really like the item and so ask for their best price, the shop owner says this is our best price as we have already discounted it. The customer knows that they can get it for £100 cheaper, so they just say “thank you” and they will “think about it”. Off they go home and complete their purchase on the internet, why not, they are about to save themselves £100?! As the owner of my own store I will be starting to look very hard at the products that are available on-line at cheap prices, and then will be looking to no longer sell these products in my store, and looking at companies who are trying their best to help the independent sellers.
What products do you sell?
We sell a large variety of products:
Wheeled goods - prams, strollers, twins/tandems, joggers, travel systems etc; Nursery goods - cots, cot beds, furniture, bedding, everything for the nursery; Safety goods - all things for safety in the home and out and about; Activity goods - bouncers, walkers, gyms & swings etc; Feeding time - highchairs, bottles, sterilisers, etc; Car seats - all groups from various manufactures; Toys - baby & pre-school toys.
Describe your customer base and how you compete with the multiple?
We have a large variety of customers including: expectant mothers, new parents, right through to grandparents. We always compete the best we can with the multiples by offering a superior customer service and the best advice available. I would rather turn a sale away if I didn’t feel the product was right for the customer, a popular one is parents looking to get their baby into a group 1 car seat before they are anywhere near the 9kg guideline. We always try to demonstrate the products we sell to the best of our ability and give the customer the best possible advice about all products. If we have to win a deal over a multiple, I would rather do it by giving the customer an extra something rather than simply discounting an item.
How long does a typical customer spend in your store?
Customers come into our store and spend, on average, around 15-20 minutes. You get those who are just passing and come in and browse for a few minutes, then you get those who come in not knowing anything and want to know everything about everything, these could spend well over an hour in store.
What about after sales, what is your return policy?
Obviously, when you are selling equipment there will be a need for a good after sales service. We always try our best for our customers should there be a need to return a product. We give all our customers a seven days peace of mind returns policy should they change their mind on the product, all we ask that they return the product in the same state that they bought it. If an item is faulty we will honour any policies that the manufactures lay down with their products. We will always do our utmost to keep our customers happy and to meet their needs.
When was your website created and how has it evolved?
We do have a website which was created around 18 months ago, but at the moment it is not our main focus. However, it is our next priority. We are always being asked if we do a catalogue, however, due to the large expense of this we will be looking to replicate our store on our website. So then everything we sell in our store will be available to view on our website and be available to purchase. Our current website has grown with the number of sales growing month on month. At present it doesn’t compete with our in store sales, however our aim is for the on-line sales to catch up.
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