BRAND FOCUS: Kiddicare

By the end of 2013, Morrisons' Kiddicare will have opened ten superstores, moving into the units vacated by Best Buy. Lewis Tyler finds out how the former online only retailer is planning to become a force in pre-school.
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The recent opening of Kiddicare’s new Nottingham superstore represents the beginning of a physical retail journey for the online specialist. 

It marks the start of a ten-store rollout, with the retailer, owned by Morrisons, stepping up to occupy the huge retail park sites vacated by the fallen American electricals retailer Best Buy.

Two more stores are set to open before the end of this year, while the remaining seven locations will open their doors in 2013. Kiddicare has also unveiled a new corporate identity, with a revamped logo and a fresh colour palette. 

With over 500,000 square feet of space to fill, is the move to physical retail at all intimidating for Kiddicare?

“We always had plans as a multi channel business to move into bricks and mortar from our online presence,” explains Simon Eastwood, retail director at Kiddicare.

He says: “If you look at the Mintel report, the baby market is to grow 28 per cent in the next five years and we think we’re in a great position to meet that demand and service our customers. As a business we see a great opportunity to offer a true multi-channel experience for our customers, and clearly bricks and mortar are part of that.

“The Best Buy opportunity was too good to miss; we’ve got ten former Best Buy stores to launch on top of our current flagship store in Peterborough – so we’re looking to have 11. It was probably a bit sooner than we expected too, which was a bit of a bonus.”

Even despite Mothercare’s current tribulations in the nursery category, Kiddicare is confident that it has indentified a gap in the market, while it also has some physical retail credentials already that you might not know about. Although most consumers do not identify Kiddicare as a physical shop, for the past eight years it has actually been operating a giant 66,000 square-foot shop in Peterborough (which can claim to be the largest baby showroom in Europe). Kiddicare’s roots are also set firmly in the High Street – the retailer actually began as a humble store in a village near Peterborough in 1974, started by Marilyn and Neville Wright, whose daughter Elaine and son-in-law Scott now run the business.

Experience earned at the Peterborough store (which Eastwood describes as a “proof of concept”) will be vital when it comes to filling Best Buy’s humungous boots. But actually, size is what will work to Kiddicare’s advantage. 

Eastwood says: “The stores will do two things. They will be an opportunity for us to become part of the local community. They will also behave like flagships where customers will drive lots of miles to come and spend a day or half a day to get brilliant advice and to get themselves ready for their newborn or their very young children.”

Comparing Kiddicare with Mothercare, Eastwood comments: “In our Nottingham store we have over 3,000 products, which is a significant increase versus any Mothercare I’m aware of. We will have up to 350 pushchairs, travel systems and buggies and over 500 car seats, which is a huge range and density of product.

“It is a similar market but we think we’re differentiated.

“I think we’re in a different position. It’s the same, but different. If you think about the Mothercare estate, they have 100s of stores and lots of them are very small.”

Mothercare is moving away from the High Street to out-of-town retail parks and shopping centres, but Kiddicare will be starting from this position. In this sector, the advantages of the retail park are obvious – whether your customers are expectant couples, or parents with a baby in tow, the car is important, so free parking in close proximity to the store is a must.

Services include free guest wi-fi and nursing rooms for privacy with upholstered chairs. Every store will have its own café, which Eastwood hopes will act as a communal area for shoppers. 

Kiddicare will also be hosting baby showers, free parenting classes and other treats for new mums. There’s also a personal shopper service called ‘Very Important Babies’, which has been a big success at the Peterborough store. 

“We were a family run business before Morrisons bought us, and the DNA part of the family business is absolutely here and alive and kicking and we’re taking that into bricks and mortar retailing,” a confident Eastwood concludes. 

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