Nursery wholesaler, Babybase Wholesale, has been keeping retailers stocked from its site near Worcester for over 20 years. We had a chat with director, Kate Shrubb, to find out what drives the business and makes them successful. Here’s what she told us…
Tell us a bit about you and your business. How long have you been running and why did you get started?
We opened an out of town retail shop in 1988. The wholesaler we had been using went out of business in 1998 and we made the decision to open a wholesaling side to our business as we were well placed to accept large deliveries and already had good business relationships with the main suppliers.
In 2007 we decided to close the retail side of the business as the wholesaling had taken off so well. We now deal with over 250 retail outlets all over the UK and abroad.
What are the foundations on which your brand has been built and how does this translate into every day business?
When we started wholesaling we were determined to provide the excellent standard of service that we had struggled to find as a retailer. We work on a very simple process: if an order reaches us before 1pm, the customer will receive the goods on the next working day. Goods are packed intelligently and carefully to arrive in perfect condition. We respond to problems by return and our accounts department is approachable and helpful. Our sales staff are highly knowledgeable regarding all the goods we sell and we are always happy to give advice and chat to our customers.
You are a wholesaler of baby products. How do you decide what to stock?
We are positioned between our suppliers and our customers. We listen to the suppliers and look at all the goods they are showing us. We also listen to our customers and try to find the products they want to sell. We look for quality and reliability – there is no point in selling products that will be returned – and also try to deal with suppliers who look after their customers. Most importantly we ask our customers to tell us what they are looking for and are happy to order in their requests. Many of the items we now stock were first introduced as customer requests. We also aim to offer products on which our customers can make a decent margin.
What would you say to a brand wanting to reach the market through your business?
We are always very open to looking at new products and brands. I will always be honest with them if I don’t think it is right for us but it is always good to have new products so we welcome new approaches.
What one thing do you wish retailers would do differently, or what piece of advice would you give them?
I wish retailers were a little more open to new products. We sell all of our items in singles so it is possible to trial a new line with a minimum of outlay.
What do you love about being in the baby business?
The nursery trade is like a family. It is really small and everyone knows everyone else and generally we all help each other. One of the things I really missed this year was going to the Harrogate show and meeting up with everyone. Roll on Harrogate 2021!
Why should a retailer but their stock from you, and can you offer them anything special?
The majority of goods that we sell are at the same price as if a retailer bought direct from the manufacturer. Our carriage paid order value of £200 can include a wide range of goods from different manufacturers which enables the retailer to buy many items without having to buy either boxed quantities or pay carriage charges. It also means they are not tying their money up in stock but can order on a just in time basis knowing we will get the goods to them the next day. We are also lovely to deal with!
What is your best selling product and why?
I always consider Babybase to be an old fashioned wholesaler in the sense that we offer all the little bits and pieces that retailers need but don’t want to buy in bulk. The Clippasafe range is a good example of this: we stock everything and nearly every order we receive from retailers includes some of their products. At present our best performing brand is Shnuggle who have built an amazing range over the last few years. We work hard to ensure that everything is in stock and work with Shnuggle to offer fantastic discounts at certain times of the year. In December we were offering 20% off everything in the range.
How has your brand reacted to the coronavirus pandemic and have you had to change the way you do business?
We have been able to stay open throughout 2020. We do not have any visitors to the site and we have a great deal of space which has made it easier to ensure that our staff are safe. During the first lockdown the online retailers that we supply were exceptionally busy and we worked very hard to fulfil their orders and keep them working. At various times we have had staff furloughed but we feel that we have been very lucky compared with a lot of businesses.
What exciting plans do you have for 2021?
At the moment it is difficult to plan for the next three days as things change all the time! I would say that we would like to carry on doing what we do: looking after our retailers, working with our suppliers and enjoying our working week!