Leading Polish car seat brand, Avionaut has welcomed industry stalwart, Fiona Suffield, as its Country Manager for the UK. Fiona brings extensive experience in launching and building successful European brands in the UK, notably as the UK and Ireland Country Manager for ABC Design, where she successfully introduced the brand to over 50 stores across the UK.

Fiona has previously led the UK and Ireland launch of ABC Design as Country Manager for over 4 years. Prior to that, she served as the Key Account Manager for Kiddy UK.

We caught up with her to find out more about how Avionaut supports retailers and consumers, how the cost of living crisis has affected purchasing patterns and the car seat brand’s plans for the future… 

“Taking on the role of Country Manager at Avionaut has been a pleasure, the Polish team have been so supportive and this has allowed me to develop the UK business with ease. I cover the whole of the UK and Ireland which is a large area, taking care of all aspects of the business. I have a great team working behind me from Poland in export, marketing, social media, service etc. and I’ve also brought in Lauren Cesi to provide PR support across the UK.”

Avionaut plays an important role in spreading awareness to consumers and retailers about car seat safety –  as a brand, how do you amplify that messaging?

“We are well known for creating quality premium seats which cater for all stages of a child’s journey whilst using a car seat. We are advocates for Extended Rear Facing (ERF) and promote the benefits of keeping children rear facing for longer, something that many people are only now becoming aware of. We work extremely hard to spread the word and educate as we visit stores and baby shows. We now have a solid marketing campaign in place as we are still relatively new to the UK, we are now just entering our third year, we have so much knowledge and we’re confident that the public sees us as a credible voice.”

When it comes to choosing and buying a car seat, what are the most important factors for parents to consider?

“The most important factor is their child, looking at all the physical attributes, height, weight, age, centiles. Parents need to consider which seat is appropriate for their child as an individual and not follow trends or friends. A seat that may be suitable for one child could be a poor purchase for another. 

The second thing to consider is whether the seat will fit your car, both from a manufacturers point of view and physically.

Always check your driver’s  manual for any instances that the seat may not be suitable. Thirdly, ease of fit depending on your lifestyle, how many cars does it need to switch between, is a tethered seat the perfect solution if you have no need to move it, a spin seat maybe for anyone with back problems and need the ease of getting their child in and out.

The list is endless, but it is paramount that parents spend time researching, testing and making the right decisions. A car seat is the most important transport item that a parent will buy for their child.”

Has the cost of living crisis affected parents’ buying choices and are you concerned about the danger of the second hand car seat market?

“There has been a shift seen as parents explore the second hand market and it is concerning as you cannot be 100% sure what life that seat has had and if there are any hidden faults.

We understand not everyone has the budget to buy a premium seat; the advice I would give is if you are contemplating a second hand seat, only ever accept one from a friend or family member, where you can be certain of where the seat has been and if it has encountered any collisions.

Also to check the expiry date on the seat as many people don’t know they have them. Having said the above, the demand for safer seats has certainly risen, parents are much more well informed and have done their research when making the buying decisions.

Longevity of a seat is something that parents also look for when cutting back, many don’t want to have a seat for each stage, they like to find one that would cover at least two stages.”

Is there enough awareness in general about car seat safety – and if not, how can that be improved?

“I feel there is a lot of work to be done by the government to make car seat safety rules clear and also to re-assess the rearward facing age limit. It proves very confusing for customers when they read the legal requirements and then hear so much about what is really best for their child.

Also having more information in the media and making car seat safety a focus would really help, so many people don’t understand what the impact of a crash looks like and the life long injuries that can be incurred.

Also the guidelines when using a taxi service should also be reviewed, I feel any child travelling in any vehicle should have to be in a child seat.”

How can brands and retailers make car seat purchasing easier?

“Clear marketing initiatives – defining the USP for their seats, giving parents the correct information in a simple way to allow them to make their own decisions. Education is also key. I myself have attended the Good Egg training course and am planning to attend training with IOSH too, you cannot be overeducated on car seat safety. Retailers have a much more hands on approach as they are working with the end consumer on a daily basis, building that relationship, asking the right key questions and being confident in fitting and providing fit checks is crucial.”

We’ve seen a rise in rearward facing car seats; what’s the next innovation in car seats?

“Avionaut is well known for their from-birth compact ERF seats and we are proud to bring this option to the market as we do know it is the safest way to travel. That being said, design, development, learning and understanding in the creation of car seats is ever evolving, and as brands keep children safe they are also looking to combine that with meeting the physical day to day needs of the parents and child.

It will be interesting to see how the next generation of seats evolve and also what will be in demand be it lie-flat, spin, ERF, impact shields. Only time will tell.”

What are Avionaut’s plans for 2024 and beyond?

“We have a strong core range and you will see some exciting developments from us. We have two new bases due to market before summer followed by some new seats and a special surprise that will be showcased at Harrogate this year. We cannot wait to show our retailers first what the team in Poland have been working on and the feedback we receive.”

A final word from Krzysztof Kogut, Head of Marketing:

“We are delighted to welcome Fiona Suffield to the Avionaut team. She brings a proven track record of success in the UK market, and we are confident that she will be instrumental in driving our growth in the region.”

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