iCandy is delighted to nominate Bumpstart to feature in Nursery Online’s retailer spotlight.

As an iCandy Brand Ambassador, the retailer is an invaluable advocate for the iCandy brand and proudly showcases the full iCandy product range via bespoke displays. Situated in a quirky tractor shed on the family’s working farm in Buckinghamshire, it is always a joy for the iCandy team to visit Bumpstart.

Friendly and knowledgeable staff take time to help parents make the right choice for them and their baby, whilst guiding them through an exciting time in their life. iCandy is proud to be stocked in Bumpstart, especially during this challenging period when the retailer has shown nothing but resilience and determination.

Tell us a bit about you and your store - why you decided to set up etc?

I set up my business in 1993 with a two year old and 4 month old baby in tow!  I had just had my second baby, and realised that my salary from my old job would not cover childcare costs.  The only way forward was to find something to do from home.  My husband converted an old tractor shed into a showroom on our family farm.  The original plan was to open four days a week (to fit in with my children’s’ needs) and I sold a mixture of new and second hand and “seconds”.  I remember many hours being spent cleaning grubby seat units and wheels.
Bumpstart iCandy Retailer Spotlight

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

The foundations on which Bumpstart has been built is family.  I would not have been able to achieve what I have, had it not been without the support of my family.  I belong to a  farming family with a huge work ethic and working seven days a week was very natural, so adding a retail shop  and working from home just sort of fitted in.

What do you love about being in baby retail? 

I love the innovation in Baby retail.  Having been in this business now for nearly 28 years, you sometimes think you have “seen it all”, but then a product leaps out at you and surprises you.

What are your top 3 greatest achievements so far since you opened?

My three greatest achievements are:

a) I’m still here!  Retail is undeniably tough, particularly at the moment.  I often wonder why I still do this, but I am blessed with a great and loyal team who work with me, several of them have been with me for twenty plus years.

b) We won a Progressive Pre School Award in 2018 for Best Independent Nursery Shop, which was really lovely and totally unexpected.  We were nominated by one of our suppliers, whose name is still a mystery to us. 

c) We were appointed a Brand Ambassador by iCandy (I believe we were the first one) in 2018  in recognition of our customer service, product knowledge and our bricks and mortar shop.

Bumpstart iCandy Retailer Spotlight

We know 2020 has been a challenging year so far, but what positive opportunities do you see for the market in the rest of 2020 into 2021?

2020 has been extremely challenging, and I don’t think that the challenges are, by any means, over yet.  However, I have been told that there has been a huge surge in sales of pregnancy tests, so perhaps there is a baby boom on the way!  A Pandemic certainly does not stop babies from arriving!

How have you continued selling and how is this working for you?

The shop is open again, but we are trading by appointment only in two designated areas in the shop.  Appointments are for two people only, and vary in length, depending on what customers would like to look at.  (We send them questionnaires beforehand). We then deep clean everything that has been handled between appointments.   This has worked extremely well and we have had a very high conversion rate as far as sales are concerned.  We are fully booked now until towards the end of August.  The downside is that we are working late most evenings to accommodate everyone who wants to come and see us.  However, we feel that this is the only safe way for us to work and to protect our customers and ourselves as best we can.  Our customers who have had appointments seem to have appreciated this.  We are also working hard on our website and our online orders are increasing well.

What has the response been from customers since March and since reopening and what has the response been from brands?

Our customers have been mainly fantastic.  I worked by myself mainly during lockdown along with one other team member who also worked from home. Sadly everyone else was Furloughed.  We still got steady orders and sales during lockdown and we did telephone consultations and WhatsApp appointments, which were a challenge at first, but we got quite good at them! Katie, my colleague, spent a great deal of time working on our website and bringing our product range on there up to date.  We have always considered our business as predominantly “bricks and mortar”, but we did have a small online shop and presence, which has proved to be a godsend! Now that we are open again, we are rushed off our feet. 

It has been challenging to work with our brands, who were also finding ways to work in these unprecedented times.  Many of their key workers were also Furloughed, so answers to emails, queries, orders and deliveries took a bit longer!   We were fortunate to be kept up to date with new products by social media and emails.   However – hats off to all of them.  We all got through it together!

What 3 top tips would you give any independent retailer setting up in the parenting industry, particularly with the current challenges?

  1. Choose your brands carefully.
  2. Choose your team members carefully.
  3. You need to be an expert at not only selling, but also customer service, accountancy, display, social media, IT, consumer law and employee law.
Bumpstart iCandy Retailer Spotlight

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?

I look for brands who will support me with margin, help with display stands, training and support.  I also like brands who help maintain that margin.  Sadly, this is becoming more and more difficult.  I will only give floor space now to brands who will work with me, and will be intending to reduce or refuse floor space to brands who want us to display their goods, but who then blatantly use our expertise and customer service to service their own website sales, or online marketplaces by offering discounts and incentives to the customers which we cannot compete with.  

What exciting plans do you have for the year ahead into 2021 (if you are happy to reveal them!)?

I don’t have any exciting plans for 2021 other than to carry on working as best we can in the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.  It’s all very strange and very uncertain at the moment, but we are well established, proactive in what we do and we will come through this more or less intact!