Pushchairs, prams and strollers. They are the single biggest investment on a new parents’ shopping list. The market was complex before the pandemic – now it’s even more so. We spoke with Jo Studholme, Director of Pushchair Expert. Here’s what she had to say…
How do you see the state of the market at the moment? What are the main challenges?
We are lucky in the nursery industry as people will always have babies – some are even predicting a baby boom early next year.
People will always need prams, pushchairs, strollers and car seats which are the bread and butter for many retailers. However, the market has changed during 2020 with a move towards a lot more online shopping. There are challenges in this industry as everyone is aware, for the retailers, distributors and manufacturers.
Managing supply and demand in an efficient and cost-effective way will always be a challenge. Delays at ports, factory closures and general supply chain issues are just a few of the problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
How do you think retailers can help themselves at the moment? And their customers?
I think that nursery retailers have really upped their game over the last year and most are offering a great, personalised service to parents and parents-to-be.
During lockdown, retailers had no choice but to change. Shops were closed to the public, yet the public still needed products and advice. At this point, retailers adapted to meet their customers’ needs and many offered video conferencing as a way to carry on offering a great personal service.
There was also a massive up-take in retailers going live on their social platforms and producing their own videos. Although we are not in lockdown (as I write this), many retailers are carrying on with these appointments and increasing their presence on social media. The pandemic has also seen an increase in retailers offering 1:1 in-store appointments and many retailers, ourselves included, are carrying on with this. Our theory is that if it helps customers, then in turn it helps the retailer.
How can retailers and brands work together?
Over the last few months, I have seen some great collaborations between independent retailers and brands. Many have offered free drop shipping to support retailers and many have increased their informal video content to support retailers on their social platforms.
There have also been in-store deals for those retailers unable to compete with the online offerings. The biggest way that brands can work with retailers is to keep the means of communication open. Delays in manufacturing chains happen, I understand that. As long as a retailer knows about these delays in a timely manner, we can manage customer expectations.
How do you think retailers and brands can best support themselves digitally?
As more and more customers move to shopping online, retailers need to keep up with this whether we like it or not. In a changing market and with the almost continuous threat that we may go back into lockdown, it is an uncertain time for everyone.
Lockdown has been incredibly difficult for retailers without an online presence and over the last few months I have seen more retailers developing this presence.
With regard to how brands can support themselves, there have been some clever digital campaigns and many are now supporting retailers with digital content. For a while, marketing took a back seat for some brands as we entered a period of massive uncertainty. However, more recently I have seen marketing become a priority again.
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Jo Studholme is the Director of Pushchair Expert.
Pushchair Expert’s retail has been created by the team who have successfully run Pushchairexpert.com, the UK’s biggest online pushchair and car seat review site. They created Pushchair Expert in 2008 with the aim of helping parents navigate the huge volume of information and find their perfect pushchair and car seat. In 2018, they took the decision to open a large retail store offering parents and parent-to-be a range of carefully selected products, run by a team of in-house ‘experts’ that have the knowledge gathered over the years in the nursery industry.