Kiddies Kingdom is an independent retailer for all high-quality children and nursery essentials that has been established for over 20 years.

Selling everything from pushchairs to sterilisers, they are a family run business and have now served over 1 million customers.

We had an exclusive interview with Mohammed Patel, founder of Kiddies Kingdom to find out more about the business.

Mohammed Patel

Tell us a bit about how Kiddies Kingdom began

When my grandparents moved to the UK from Gujarat, India, they opened the first Asian grocery store in Yorkshire. My father started helping in the store when he was around 9 years old, and from there became connected with the clearance industry.

As Terry cotton nappies started to fade, he saw a gap in the market to offer ‘seconds nappies’, and recognised that when bought in bulk, there was money to be made from selling them.

After establishing regular customers, he opened a shop called ‘The Nappy Factory’ and gained the first introduction to the baby industry. With rising demand for other products, he branched out to offer nursery equipment, and joined forces with brands like Tommee Tippee, Britax and Brevi offering a one stop shop for baby essentials.

With a larger product range came the business became known for having the widest selection of baby goods in the area. In around 1996, Kiddies Kingdom was born when my father opened a 5,000 sq. ft. market space in Dewsbury, which was the largest outdoor market at the time.

I got involved in the business in around 2005 and we have grown drastically from there. Our original Dewsbury space is our showroom, but we’ve taken the majority of the business online. 

What are the foundations on which Kiddies Kingdom has been built and how does this translate into every day business? 

When I officially joined the business in 2005, it was very early days for ecommerce. As consumer behaviour was rapidly changing, I recognised early on that I wanted to pivot the Kiddies Kingdom strategy to focus online. By acting on this quickly, we gained an early mover advantage and a greater knowledge than most in the industry.

I’ve kept this as a pillar of the business throughout, ensuring staff live and breathe technology in order to stay relevant. 

Kiddies Kingdom warehouse

What do you love about being in the baby market? 

Choosing products for a new baby is an exciting step for parents. At Kiddies Kingdom, we guide parents throughout their journey; right from pregnancy to early school years.

Although the way consumers shop has changed over time, with more purchases made online, that the ‘touch and feel’ experience is still an imporant part. Hence, why we relaunched the showroom in Dewsbury.

What are your thoughts when you hear of high street closures and how are you turning this news into positive opportunities?

The demise of the high street does not surprise me at all, in fact I’ve been forecasting it for quite some time. Although it has been and will be detrimental to some retailers, we’ve positioned ourselves so we can capitalise on this. 

In this sector, some of the big retailers have gone, leaving a void behind for independent retail stores to fill. Baby products will always remain a necessity, so any business that is lost on the high street will have to go somewhere else.

At Kiddies Kingdom, we have a wealth of experience in ecommerce and understand how to meet changing consumer demands. Our customers have the option to touch and feel in store before going away and finalising the sale online. We plan to increase our high street presence throughout the next few years in an attempt to not only nationalise our brand but to deliver a much needed, seamless omnichannel experience. 

Kiddies Kingdom range

We have heard in the media about your hopes to take over some Mothercare stores, why do you feel this is a big opportunity for Kiddies Kingdom and what other exciting plans do you have for the year ahead? 

Although there was some value in taking over existing locations, it makes more commercial sense for us to build 21st century showrooms in strategic locations. We are an ambitious and forward thinking business, and believe we have the right ingredients to become the ‘go-to’ point for baby shopping.

Although Mothercare have recently struck a deal with Boots, customers no longer have a national outlet for baby shopping. We will strive to fill it. 

Whilst others pull investment off the high street, we will do the opposite and invest in it on a national scale. We understand how customers want to shop and we will fill that with the launch of state-of-the-art flagship showrooms in major cities across the spine of the UK. By delivering an end-to-end experience, we will be creating a hub that customers are longing for.

We are also working on a technology that will transform the industry and how consumers shop. The next 12 months are going to be big for Kiddies Kingdom!

What do you look for in the brands you stock, and what tips can you give brands hoping to work with independents in the future?

As an independent retailer, we look for brands that offer flexibility in fulfilment, big enough to cope, but small enough to care.

We look for suppliers that can dedicate attention and time to us. Some of the key independents (like Kiddies Kingdom) will be the semi-nationals of tomorrow, eating into the shares from bigger department stores, so it’s important for suppliers to recognise this.

What are you doing in response to the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak?

As a business, we are fully cloud based meaning we have been able to keep our ecommerce running as normal.

Any office staff that can work from home are doing so, using the collaborative tools and communication systems that were already in place. We have six small warehouses as opposed to one larger space, so staffing levels have always been low as a standard. Our warehouses are segmented in layout, allowing staff to continue picking and packing as normal, without compromising the social distancing restrictions.

Kiddie's Kingdom team

Following the lockdown announcement, we experienced an instant surge in online orders with traffic more than doubling (105%) overnight. Unlike many other retailers, we’ve been able to be in full operation during this period without compromising on safety, putting us in an incredibly strong position.

What have you done to encourage digital traffic?

We’re putting a focus on what consumers are looking for during the lockdown, such as home products and outdoor play equipment.

What has the response been from customers and brands during lockdown?

We have seen different responses from brands depending on their size but overall, they have had more time for us. Some brands have offered drop shipping, sending products to customers directly which has been helpful to reduce factory processes our end.

In general, consumers have been less demanding and understanding of any delays given the circumstances. They appreciate our ability to stay fully functioning during this time to supply them with their much needed baby and nursery essentials. 

What advice would you give independent retailers to get them through this difficult time? 

The key to success is being proactive in your approach. It is vital to adapt to situations where possible, predicting what might happen next and putting processes in place. In the run up to the coronavirus lockdown, we held regular contingency meetings, to assess what we would do if restrictions were put in place causing high street stores to shut.

Our staff have been extremely productive whilst working at home, but we are aware that flexible hours can often lead to a burnout culture. For businesses working remotely, introducing employee efficiency monitoring software is an effective way to make sure employees are not under or over working. Similarly, HR tools such as a remote clock in and clock out system, make it easier to monitor the hours of staff working on shifts, such as warehouse packers. 

The future of retail is online, so whether you have a physical store or not, being able to deliver using an ecommerce platform is essential.