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Mothercare: live webchat with CEO Simon Calver, TODAY, Friday 22 March, 11am

(195 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 20-Mar-13 15:30:20

Simon Calver, Mothercare CEO is joining us for a webchat on Friday 22nd March between 11am and midday. After reading a recent rather, erm, robust MN thread about Mothercare, Simon really wants to hear more of your thoughts and feedback. This is your opportunity to contribute your ideas to help shape the future of Mothercare.

Simon says, 'I'm really looking forward to hearing from many of you in the Mumsnet community and to listen to your thoughts and opinions on a range of subjects. We are working hard to address many of the issues you've raised in the past so I hope you'll join me on Friday when I can update you on what we've done so far and some of our ideas for the future.'

Before joining Mothercare Simon was CEO at LoveFilm and has also worked with Unilever and PepsiCo. He is also a father of two very young children.

Simon looks forward to hearing your thoughts about Mothercare between 11 and 12 on Friday. if you're unable to join us on the day, please post your question in advance on this thread.

gazzalw Wed 20-Mar-13 18:16:23

Hi Simon

We are a bit beyond Mothercare with our two (although DD is only 7 so could theoretically be dressed from there). Whilst DW would shop for baby-related items in Mothercare, by the time DD came along she found the shop expensive and non-inspiring. I would say that apart from using the Mother and Baby facilities (which really need to be revamped to get rid of the pervading dirty nappy smell!) she has probably only ventured in to a branch a couple of times in seven years. The baby/children's clothes seem expensive (and you never get good Sales reductions) and a bit naff/tacky. It seemed a good move putting ELCs within the larger out-of-town branches but even the ELC seems to have gone downhill in past decade or so.

I am sure that there is still a niche market for Mothercare but I think you need to go for a more personalised service, particularly pitched to first-time parents. And you are really missing a trick by not making the clothing range appeal to parents of 5 - 9 year olds who don't necessarily want their DCs dressed as mini-adults.

The whole 'vibe' of the Mothercare brand needs to move away from a rather old-fashioned clinical concept to something that is nurturing, warm and welcoming and goes that bit further (as with the John Lewis' children's deparment) to give parents what they want from pregnancy stage through to the tween stage. Perhaps holding NCT/anti-natal care classes at branches and offering a wider range of pregnancy and parenthood-related services.

Otherwise, good luck. You have quite a task ahead of you!

Meglet Wed 20-Mar-13 21:04:48

We're just coming to the end of the Mothercare age, but the following often put me off the shop and could do with some improvement.

Cleaner toilets. On the several occasions we had to use them they were smelly, out of soap and grubby. Please employ regular cleaners to keep them spotless.

Cut back on the blue is for boys / pink is for girls nonsense. We don't need every toy / item of clothing in a pink or blue version. (Although I think I did see some smashing red / yellow / green welly options when I popped in last time). Lots of us parents were kids in the 70's and 80's when there wasn't such a divide between boy things and girls things, we can cope with unisex clothes and toys you know.

I do have one good thing to say, the Urban Detour 3 wheeler pushchair is ace, mine is over 6yrs old and still going strong. While I won't be having any more children whoever I hand it on to will have many more hundreds of miles out of it. Great design and very robust.

lopopo Wed 20-Mar-13 22:46:03

Hi Simon

I'm a new parent with a 7 month year old. Mothercare was a very strong brand for me but I found your shops to be quite poorly stocked - there never seemed to be the item I needed on the shelf when I wanted it. Your staff however are always friendly and helpful. It's a bit frustrating really - I want to shop with you more but other places are maybe doing it better. John Lewis's click and collect system would be something to look at and I think your clothes are nice but I'm not sure about you positioning. Where do you fit with brands like Next, Gap and JoJo Maman Baby? Why would I buy my kids or maternity wear from you?

Thanks

coppertop Wed 20-Mar-13 23:00:19

I used to use our local branch of Mothercare a lot. The separate feeding room with comfortable chairs was excellent, and the toilet facilities were suitable for pregnant women, toddlers, and older children.

Then the store was renovated and those facilities disappeared completely. They now only have a toilet for people with disabilities, and astonishingly this is kept wedged open at all times. Presumably it is so that no one else uses it but also means that anyone with a disability who goes in there to use it must then go back out to the main area and find a member of staff to remove the wedge. Less than ideal if your disability means that you need to go very quickly. hmm

Who on earth thought that it was a good idea to remove the facilities that your potential customers would be most likely to need?

jbakedbean Thu 21-Mar-13 00:19:22

Morning Simon,
I'm a mother of two boys, 4 and 2, with another baby on the way. As I am the people consultant at a business and IT consultancy which has recently completed some large retail technology change programmes I'm surprised mother are isn't embracing and using technology as a business enabler. Your website, click and collect, evouchers, advertising on other platforms eg ebay etc are all partnerships and opportunities which should be considered.

A lack of consistency in the staff, attitudes vary from exceedingly poor to reasonable interest, high prices without a value add service and a clearly a technology is a cost base and not an enabler approach could all be reasons for people no longer buying into the brand.

What is next for Mothercare in the baby/ toddler retail war?

Here is another one of my ideas: I have plenty more but I quite like this one: putting in a cafe and play area into stores. Why? Opportunities to introduce your brands of baby food and drinks, to parents. We all know how much time mums like to spend chatting to other mums and if you had a small play area (stocked with Mothercare or elc toys, mums would definitely buy toys if they knew before hand that there children liked them), or ran baby music clubs, story time, baby massage clubs, antenatal classes, breast feeding workshops, etc not only would it bring in a lot more traffic plus time spent would increase the likelihood of parents buying more with you. Increase brand loyalty etc. banks have done it, ( just a thought). It would show Mothercare had interest and invested in their products and customers and were not just a retail outlet.

I wish you all the best and if you would like to discuss more please feel free to contact me.

motherofallmuddles Thu 21-Mar-13 09:34:31

Hi Simon
Thank you for coming to Mumsnet. I've been to your Edmonton Store and was really impressed by the changes, especially the Costa Coffee- good move.
My concern is that I understand you are closing down the high street stores in favour of the out of town retail parks. I get that this works when choosing a car seat however aren't you just another retailler deserting the british high street ?

AmberLav Thu 21-Mar-13 14:07:54

To follow-up on the deserting the High Street point, our local High Street branch is staffed by mums who have worked there for years, and are massively helpful, whereas our nearest "Large carpark" brand new version is entirely staffed by 20-year old girls who saunter around as it they have all the time in the world, and are pleasant but useless. If you are going to close the high street version, please move the great staff to the new big ones!

One good thing I've noticed recently is that most tills now seem to have (just) enough space for two buggies to pass each other, which was such a fundamental point to miss when most shoppers were there with buggies!

Hopefully the plans for the future include gift vouchers that can be used online, improvement to your computer systems so that ordering in store does not take hours, and sorting out your version of Collect in-store, as I had weeks of text messages telling me my item still needed to be collected, when it had been collected already.

I actually quite like the clothes, but I've only bought boys stuff, so can't comment on the girls clothes...

JeanBillie Thu 21-Mar-13 14:14:14

Hello,

I'd like to start with a positive: there is a wonderful wonderful member of staff at Mothercare Bedford, who was so kind to me when my daughter was only a few weeks old.

I managed to get my car seat stuck onto the chassis of our Mamas & Papas pushchair, and was stuck in the Mothercare carpark, unable to either detach the carseat or to fold down the buggy. She was SO kind in helping me to dismantle the stupid, badly designed carseat even though it wasn't a Mothercare item. Her kindness left me in tears!

I'd really like to know what your plans are. I have to admit, I find Mothercare stores look a bit tired, and there's never the right item in stock when I want it.

Thanks for coming onto MN to hear more about what we're looking for. smile

champagnesupernovum Thu 21-Mar-13 14:30:52

Hello
My local branch is a megastore in a retail park with clarks and ELC franchise.
hmm

Why is it not possible get to the shoes without having to run the gauntlet of walking through ALL the toys to get there. hmm?

I would also add that I have a fair few Mothercare bits (you are one of the few retailers who offer poppered vests up to age 3, so well done on that.)
It seems to me though that Mothercare as a whole is expensive when the quality is taken in a/c.

I really don't feel that the quality matches that of John Lewis/named brands.

Echoing the pink/blue nonsense that has been posted above

And some NICE stuff for boys as they get older
All the sludge brown and "here comes trouble" stuff makes me sad.
That is all

THANK YOU for coming on Mumsnet, PLEASE listen to the MNers - we know we are talking about. grin

Lollydaydream Thu 21-Mar-13 14:48:46

I can't get round our local store with a buggy easily and it is pretty small. The same with our ELC; with both there seem s no point in going into the store what I want will probably not be in there; if I want certainty I order online and then I can't pick a delivery date and time. Online us fine for me but grandparents etc will not use it so you are loosing sales.
Also your bras do not fit you are using and outdated measuring syst and do not make nursing bras in an appropriate range of sizes.

skhatun Thu 21-Mar-13 15:01:34

Sorry forgot to mention I've tried to order things off the Internet but had far to many problems trying to place an order that I gave up confused

SilverSnake Thu 21-Mar-13 15:30:07

Hi

I would like to see the following stocked ny mothercare:
Cloth nappies like ittibitty
Legwarmers
Moby wraps/woven wraps
Wider range of cot bed bedding for toddlers
Rear faceing car seats with expert fitters in shop
Organic fashion for baby and toddlers
New fashion range for 5-9 year olds

Is there any plans to introduce any of the above?

I live close to Parkgate retail world where the new kiddicare shop has open. There is a big Mothercare, mama and paps and now kiddicare all next to each other. How do you plan to make Mothercare stand out or offer parents something the other shops dont?

EmpressOfTheSevenOceans Thu 21-Mar-13 15:30:34

Hi Simon

Thanks for coming in.

I don't have a small child myself, but my SIL is pregnant and says the thing that would tempt her most is being able to actually try out a few travel systems, find out which ones are comfortable to push and which ones she really can fold one-handed. Is this something Mothercare offers, or that you'd consider offering?

gilly86 Thu 21-Mar-13 15:43:52

Hi Simon smile

Mothercare in Plymouth is in Drake Circus shopping centre. Its very small compared to other Mothercares I've been to.
My husband and I are trying to conceive so it doesnt apply to us YET but we even find the Plymouth store utterly dire.

My brother+his wife AND my sister+her husband (and other friends+family with little ones) don't even go there anymore.... And there are no other baby shops in Plymouth!

They have to drive to the larger mothercare in Torquay or even go further afield to Mamas+Papas in Bristol! I think Kiddicare are also opening a store in Bristol soon so that's appealing.

You have shut down many high street stores and opened bigger mothercares in out of town retail parks... It's a shame for the high street but Plymouth would welcome a new, bigger, retail park style mothercare with open arms!

Ahem May I suggest you open one in marsh mills, Plympton, in the old big comet store?! EVERYONE I know is saying the same thing "oh yes that would be the perfect place for a mothercare!!" Etc etc.. It's the talk of the town!

Worth a try i suppose!!!!!!!

Thanks! grin

chenrob Thu 21-Mar-13 15:52:12

Hi Simon

I ws jsut wondering, how mothercare plan to tackle customer queries quicker in the future? I have tried calling before, emailing and then finally resorted to social media, yet my 'issue' was not resolved.

It would be good to get a reply without having to sit on the phone for hours.

Thanks

SpringtimeForShatner Thu 21-Mar-13 16:04:52

My thoughts on Mothercare, based on recent experience:

1) Unpleasant to be in. The two small shops I went in were so overcrowded with displays it was difficult to get round with the pram, plus there was a real pong of dirty nappies coming from the changing room in both shops.
2) Poor value for money. The clothes (children's and maternity wear) in particular are so-so quality and style, but at high prices.
3) Too much reliance on orders from store because they don't stock what you went in for. If I wanted to order stuff without seeing it, I certainly wouldn't bother going into a high street shop selling at inflated prices and get the assistant to carry out an online order at snail's pace for me.
4) Please sell some cheerful clothes for boys. Not characters and slogans, not only brown, blue or grey. Look at John Lewis and H&M for some inspiration.
5) A positive experience was ordering something online (at home!) and picking it up in-store a couple of days later. It was convenient and worked.

I assume the shops I went in won't exist for much longer if they're getting rid of the high street branches though, so some of my comments are probably useless and won't apply to the big out of town stores. Seems a shame for a high street staple to disappear, and I know my MIL will be annoyed when her local branch goes; she can't drive and Mothercare is her go-to shop when she wants something for a baby. Isn't small town high street presence the only advantage Mothercare has over its competitors?

stargirl1701 Thu 21-Mar-13 16:13:17

Hi. I would like to see you move away from such a gender divide in your stock. There are so many colours - why stick predominantly to pink & blue? It would be great to have a retailer in the UK like Polarn O Pyret or Katvig. The ELC toys seem to have really moved into this gender divide and no longer seem to be about learning through play.

It would be fab if the babygrows continued to have fold over scratch mitts beyond 6 months. We use sleeping bags so DD's little hands often get very cold overnight. The 'Grosuits' sold for the sleeping bags that incorporate this are quite expensive.

More products to support Breastfeeding would be great too. I would love to see Medela, Breastworks, Yoomi, NUK, etc. products on sale. The bog standard Tommee Tippee and Avent are available everywhere - and usually cheaper elsewhere too.

Could you extend the cot range to include co-sleeper cots? For example, Arms Reach?

Moochicken Thu 21-Mar-13 16:37:44

I have found shopping in Mothercare a very frustrating experience over the past few years due to poor customer service and quite a narrow range of stock.

After having a second baby a few weeks ago, I went to Mothercare to stock up on a few essentials. The store itself was a bit grim looking but I actually noticed quite a few new Mothercare branded products that looked really good. In particular a highchair for 24.99 which I though could rival my Ikea antilop and was certainly better looking.

Mothcare could be so much more than an average (and in some cases below average) baby/children's shop. I love the idea further up the thread about running relevant sessions and having cafes in store.

FoofFighter Thu 21-Mar-13 16:53:28

Simon, are you opening any new stores in the Moray area? Such a hassle to go to Inverness or Aberdeen for baby things, or the vastly overpriced and understocked local independent pram shop hmm - you're missing a trick!

My first job was in Mothercare and made a pramnerd out of me grin

AmandinePoulain Thu 21-Mar-13 17:21:01

Hello, and thanks for coming to talk to us smile

I have generally been disappointed with my local branch (Swansea) but I went in at the weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed cleaner, and the upstairs area had reopened after being used as a dumping ground for years so the store felt more spacious. If it was your doing, thank you smile. I didn't venture into the toilets so don't know if they'd improved, the smell in the baby room used to be horrific. And the lady at customer services actually served me rather than directing me to the other till which is always the only one open with a huge queue.

I do find it hard to find what I want sometimes to be honest. I went in recently to buy a bath seat for my 7mo (ie. a sitting up one) and there weren't any. And I was in the Cardiff (St. David's) branch and looking for breast milk bags - I looked by infant feeding where I expected them to be but they were in maternity hmm.

I miss our separate ELC to be honest. They used to do craft activities on a Tuesday morning but that hasn't been carried on with sad, and for some inexplicable reason the front of the store is laid out with toys to play with but I think I've seen it open to children twice confused.

HRH008 Thu 21-Mar-13 17:51:31

Hi Simon,
I missed out on Mothercare as I live in Germany. Mothercare is sorely needed over here. I enquired about the possibility of opening a store here but was told that it wasn`t possible. Is it? I am still interested, and there is a HUGE market here.
Cheers
008

yousankmybattleship Thu 21-Mar-13 18:02:16

Hello. Sorry, I've not had time to read all the previous questions so apologies if I'm repeating any. Can I ask you about store layout? When my children were small I used two branches of Mothercare (one of which was one of the big out of town ones) and in both there was not enough room to get a buggy between the displays. The aisles were lovely and wide but it was impossible to browse anything else without leaving my buggy in an aisle and trying to dash in before my baby noticed and started wailing.

Hi, thanks for joining to answer questions.

I used to LOVE Mothercare. When my oldest son (now 10) was born I bought everything from Mothercare. It was a pleasure to shop, and with helpful and dedicated staff. I bought lots online, and lots in store. My favourite shops were Marble Arch, and in Kew Retail park.

3 Years later our youngest was born, and the changes began. Kew used to have baby change with free nappies and wipes. Bottle warmers in the "Carers area", and child friendly toilet. These facilities were the first to close. Soon, there was only a toilet left. Then the cafe closed. This was the Hub for new mums. I would come to shop, have lunch with my oldest and feed my baby. A busy store became a ghost town, with uninterested staff chewing gum and too busy to chat to bother with customers. Staff members behind the counter on a "go slow" and chatting while people are waiting to be served, in an empty store.

What happened?

Then you started this ridiculous discount policy online. 3 for the price of 2. Not across a section of similar items, like bath items. But, 3 baby baths! Who needs that? It works well if you need three outfits, or three packs of babywipes. It is just frustrating.

It looks to me that in the last 8 years Mothercare has made conscious decision to see how far you can go in providing a bad service and a bad shopping experience and still retain some customers.

lagoonhaze Thu 21-Mar-13 18:23:43

You need to promote extended rearfacing car seats in ALL your stores. Unless parents see it as normal the whole dangerous practice of turning your baby around at 9 months won't change.

Its great you are stocking besafe and maxi cosi mobi but you need to extend this.

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