Paul Roberts cut his teeth in the nursery industry 25 years ago, before founding his own pushchair and organics brand, Mee-go. He’s the UK distributor for Emmaljunga, and has recently been announced as the UK distributor for LeClerc Baby pushchairs.
We caught up wth him to find out more…
Tell us how you came to found Mee-go in 2012:
“I joined the nursery retail industry as a graduate with Mamas & Papas before joining Silver Cross as part of a team at PWC, responsible for turning it around and reselling it. I was then headhunted by Emmaljunga after we met each other at Silver Cross, before eventually joining Norton motorbikes who, at the time, were diversifying into strollers. From that point, it felt like the right time to launch Mee-go (named after my son’s expressions – “mee go toilet!” or “mee go nap!”) Not wanting to be pigeonholed in travel equipment only, we launched an organics range which is produced in Ireland and now sold internationally. Mee-go is a very personal to me as it’s the same age as my son, and it’s constantly evolving and winning lots of awards.”
You own Mee-go, you’re a shareholder in Emmaljunga and you’ve now been appointed as distributor for LeClerc Baby. Tell us a bit more…
“LeClerc Baby makes a brilliant urban folding buggy and the brand is growing at a phenomenal rate and now selling in Harrods window. So when LeClerc Baby’s CEO and Sales Director made us offer, we couldn’t refuse! And while we deal with the same customers across all three brands, we’re responsible for selling LeClerc Baby into the UK market in a highly formulated approach – it’s a great business opportunity!”
How has the nursery industry evolved since you started?
“When I entered the industry 25 years ago as a graduate, the internet was in its infancy. Retailers were able to make a lot of money and there were no price wars. After Kiddicare shook up the market in 1992, the next major changes were in terms of digitisation and speed of product to market. Margins have actually remained pretty stagnant for retailers – 33% net on average (I still have no idea why it’s set at 33%?!) but everything else has soared – rent, rates, salaries etc.”
How can your brands help support small, independent retailers?
“Retailers need margin and consistency of supply. We couldn’t predict the current crises, but Emmaljunga, for instance, will be in a position to drop prices this year thanks to low manufacturing costs, due to a huge recycling scheme which China can’t compete with. Yes, there are limited supplies out there but with 100% of Emmaljunga products coming from Europe and Sweden and 80% of Mee-go products coming from Europe and Turkey, retailers can continue to access products they can sell at higher margins with no price war. We’re also introducing an incentive scheme at Harrogate this year whereby, if retailers buy into our products and brands, we can help them make the margins which give them real chance to make money and achieve a ROI.”
As a distributor, what are the main trends you’ve seen parents embracing in 2021?
“Customers want multi-functionality – travel systems they can add a car seat or carry cot to, as well as small, folding, travel compatible strollers. Look, colour and style are important too, as is marketing. They’re not necessarily driven by price, they simply demand value for money. They’re going to think – if Harrods thinks a LeClerc Baby stroller is worth £399, then it’s worth it.”
Which three baby products /brands do you wish you’d invented?
E-stroller with Emmaljunga and Bosch – especially the twin version!
What plans or developments are in store for Mee-Go for the year ahead?
“Mee-go’s fantastic new travel system ‘Pure’ is launching at Harrogate. The detail and finish is amazing – it’s without doubt the best product we’ve ever made and puts us firmly into the mainstream market.”