Mitch Levene, formerly MD at Artsana which owns Chicco is now COO of Green Sheep Group, the UK nursery business founded in 2006 and recently awarded the prestigious King’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade.
In this exclusive interview, Mitch tells Nursery Online how confident he feels about the FMCG/nursery market in 2023 – and tells us about GSG’s growth plans, both at home and internationally. He started by explaining how his experience at Artsana supports him in his current role as COO at GSG: 

“Twelve years building a hugely successful business with great people and developing a super brand such as Chicco stood me in good stead for the role ahead with Green Sheep Group. Basically, you ‘reap what you sow’ and I have always strived to build credibility, reliability and integrity. Vital ingredients, which ensures trust, respect makes business relationships all the simpler and more productive.”

What are GSG’s growth plans for 2023 and beyond – and (how) have you had to adapt them to address the current cost of living crisis?

“GSG has real clarity on how to accelerate its growth. This emanates from strategies focused upon leading brands, unique innovation, profitable mutual retailer partnerships, a top performing team and international expansion. Great products and brands such as Snuzpod & Little Green Sheep provide consumers with trust. This is always important when connected with babies, although even more so in an economic downturn, whereby consumers are looking for reassurance.  They receive this from brands such as Snuz and Little Green Sheep, which are high quality although affordable.”

How confident are you about the FMCG market – and specifically the nursery market? Any predictions for the next 12 months?

“Whilst the social-economic group of A, B & Cs are saving money due to current concerns, behind the scenes the energy costs are dropping back to pre-panic and pre- Ukrainian – Russian war levels. This bodes well for a potential mini boom later in 2023, as energy prices begin to decline and some feel good factor returns. For sure, these savings are more within a 50+ age profile, although the disposable cash is still spent as grandparents. Whilst they are also one of the largest lenders as ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ supporting their offspring. Fortunately, GSG products are high quality with a strong desire from this socio- economic group.”

Many parents actively seek out organic, green products – what sets The Little Green Sheep apart from its competitors?

“Our vision is to enable parents to create the most natural family environment possible. It all started with our mattresses. Our range was developed on the belief that a natural environment is vital for a good night’s sleep. Initially developed with little ones in mind, it soon became clear there was a great demand from the whole family to sleep on naturally sourced materials to support the most peaceful slumber, and why not! We’re delighted to support naturally calming and well supported sleep, from day one and beyond.”

Organic baby products often come at a premium price tag – how does GSG convince parents that it’s worth the extra cost?

“For our customers, the peace of mind associated with buying organic and natural products has incredible value. Our pricing strategy carefully balances the integrity and the quality of the product with the overall cost, for example our beautiful organic cotton sleeping bags start from just £29.95. So it is less about convincing customers, it is more about having the product range available and accessible to support customers who are seeking natural.”

Why type of retailers generally stock your products – and how do you support smaller independent shops in terms of training, after sales etc?

“The type of shop or online representation tends to be prestigious, design led retailers, who attract aspirational and environmentally centric consumers. Although we do also have distribution in a broader base as the desire for GSG product is huge and we do our utmost to provide the experience of buying GSG products as far as possible. The GSG current roll out of a reward programme for independents provides broad benefits including training, instore displays, local marketing activities and innovation.”

You’ve boosted your Sales & Marketing team this year with some exciting new hires: are there more significant appointments in the pipeline?

“We have boosted our sales & marketing team with true quality as GSG organisational strategies focus upon retail partnerships and further enhancing leading category brands. Although we have also boosted the team with other talented colleagues. For example, in HR concentrating on producing a top performing team across GSG. It should be stressed though that the newer recruits have integrated perfectly with the talented longer serving colleagues to form a formidable team. Being surrounded by top talent bodes well for the future.”

What are your plans for GSG’s international growth?

“International expansion is one of GSG’s core strategies. It’s only fair that parents & babies in other countries can experience the delights of GSG products! We have identified synergistic consumer profiled countries to enter, complete with aligned retailers. Watch this space!”

Share your story

Want to share your news story through Nursery Online? Drop us a line using our news form or send us an email.