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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.

Tinkerisdead Thu 21-Mar-13 18:40:06

Hi Simon,

I was in my local mothercare store today actually, leicester. I was really looking around critically after we pulled the stores and brand apart recently.

Firstly the store layout is really disjointed. Trying to offer all things parents need means that you only have a small selection of items really. Big name buggies i didnt see, bugaboo, uppababy, baby jogger etc i appreciate that you will want to press the mothercare brand. Car seats it would be nice to see more extended rearfacing options.

The till areas are appaling compared to most high street names, busy, messy, a million different impulse buy items in your face. Worst of all was sweets at the tills. Your store caters for the youngest of children; the kind that tantrum at will in shops over sweets!

On a positive note; the clothes were much more appealing to me with some lovely summery items for girls. The boys clothes were bright and vibrant. I noticed that there are far less "mummy's little monster" type slogans with lots of bold fun prints. The pricing was also good value with lots if multibuy offers. I also shopped online with you for some daisylane bedding as it was very good value on offer.

I really do think your store has a place on the highstreet, its just trying to be all things to all people. Mothercare toys alongside elc for example is just plain confusing!

Every single member of your staff greeted me in store and i was asked if i needed help etc. it was actually an enjoyable shopping experience. Thank you.

TeamEdward Thu 21-Mar-13 18:44:38

To be honest, I haven't stepped foot in a Mothercare for about 3 years.
I bought a lot of Mothercare stuff when pg with DS1 (now 7) and we bought a lot of clothes and equipment too. By the time DS2 was born 3 years later, things had waned. Now both local towns have lost their stores, in favour of an out of town outlet. I've never been in it, because I doubt I'd find anything worth buying (based on previous experience).

Firstly, customer service was poop. I really think Mothercare needs staff prepared to care for Mothers (and Fathers too!). I disliked being scowled at for allowing my toddler to shake boxes look at toys. I didn't like being shrugged at by young staffmembers who quite obviously had never been up for 20 hours on the trot with a colicy baby.

Your maternity clothes were strange, with extremely long legs and arms. Not all women are 5'11...

Often items weren't available. I wanted to buy a selection of matching items from a particular range, but something was always out of stock. I want my nappy bucket to match the baby bath. AIBU?

The toilets and feeding room were a life-saver on many occasions, but really needed to be cleaned more regularly.

chickensaladagain Thu 21-Mar-13 19:03:47

I ventured into the Huddersfield store the other day to buy a gift for my friend's new baby

There were empty arms with babygrows hung on by the arm in a clumsy attempt at health and safety I presume but it didn't look good

There was only 1 member of staff to be seen and she was on the till -very friendly and chatty but flying solo

I was unimpressed by the selection and ended up buying from next which was cheaper and better quality

My dcs are now 9&11 but I bought most things for them from mothercare in Leeds crown point but the quality at the time was so much better

KelleStar Thu 21-Mar-13 19:07:04

I am currently pregnant with DC2 and hauled DD with me to your Longwell Green branch, which is tiny compared to the one at Emersons Green, but it's my nearest. I had a good wander about, as really in our area, there isn't a great selection of baby stuff in one spot to look at.

The two things that were a disappointment to me...

Not having stock of plus size maternity wear to try on [16/18/20] were only available in some items that aren't really flattering on the larger lady. I don't like slogans. I also tried on a Nursing top that was fine at the front, but was short, I would really appreciate a bit of length to cover my belly.

Maternity Bra's, OK I can walk into Debenhams and pick up my pre-pregnancy size of 36HH, but I can't walk into any store and pick up a nursing bra in my size that is flattering. Last pregnancy I went up two cup sizes to a 34K and could not find a bra anywhere [squished into a J cup, which actually felt more like a G cup] to cope with my cup size without giving me no support and unaboob, it really made me feel frumpy and unattractive, I breastfed until DD was 15 months and I couldn't believe how much slimmer I looked when I went back to normal bra's, this shouldn't be. I'd love to see Mothercare be the first to start stocking more flattering nursing bras for the large of nork.

DyeInTheEar Thu 21-Mar-13 19:16:04

I like being pleasantly surprised by the stock at my local Mothercare (Holloway Road). I think you can find nice stuff - especially for girls - which is quite Boden / White company style tops. Though I've also walked out shaking my head at some of the stereotypical stuff for girls / boys.

The store itself though is shabby and in desperate need of a refit and it's a small store so when there is a queue with just 3 buggies it is a bit of jostle to get round the store. This shop could be a goldmine location.

I never seem to get the sizes I need - ever - for either of my DCs.

Jules Oliver's range isn't stocked though and always sold out online. Is this a ploy? I wondered if all the promotion and PR surrounding this range was to get us in store and not enough ever produced and impossible to get hold of?

Customer service is a bit hit and miss. Friendly enough but mostly a bit non plussed and at times grumbly.

Well done on coming to MN. Should be the cheapest and easiest bit of market research ever. wink

AmandinePoulain Thu 21-Mar-13 19:40:21

Yes please to stocking ERF seats - there's no where anywhere near me that sells them or fits them; and decent slings rather than just the babybjorn style ones; and cloth nappies. And babygros with mitts past 6 months. We don't ask for much do we? grin

lagoonhaze Thu 21-Mar-13 19:51:39

Oh and Ive just looked online

I like these shorts


But I would also like the top. Please link your items or say if not available why ie out of stock- being released when etc. Its very frustrating

gazzalw Thu 21-Mar-13 20:30:27

You have a brand name known to all and Mothercare could really become the destination for all parents, particularly first time ones. But you really need to make it more than a shop. It needs to be a desirable destination which provides a holistic approach to parenting!

Boggler Thu 21-Mar-13 20:30:55

Hi Simon, hope you're not reeling from all the suggestions, and observations I have a few issues with Mothercare :-

1. My local Mothercare (newport) was closed in the summer of 2012 gutting for both the high street and parents it had been there for over 40 years and if you'd had the presence of mind to update the shop and ditch some of the bigger items it could have been very profitable. Ironically if it was still there you'd be doing a roaring trade as there is no where else to buy baby/children's clothes.

2. My nearest Mothercare is now (Cwmbran) which is ok but fgs it is on 2 floors and it doesn't have a lift!! Hello we are mums mostly with buggies or prams how are we supposed to get upstairs to see what you have for sale? It's not rocket science if your customers cannot get upstairs they aren't going to np buy anything. Ironically the closed newport store had a great lift.

3. The clothes for babies and children are definitely overpriced you can get better quality for less at m&s, Next and John Lewis. That said I don't want bargain basement George or matalan stuff. I'm prepared to pay but only if it feels worth it. I like Joules, Boden and Monsoon stuff and so do most of my friends, people will pay for good quality clothing that lasts.

4. Baby tops and t-shirts should be tested to see if they are easy to get on and off, I've had too many that are near impossible to get on a baby. Try and have stretchy fabric (boots do is) or tops that button all the way down the back etc.

5. Get some cute designs, pretty for girls not just pink, no slogans ever, no peppa pig or Thomas, colourful stuff for boys and girls.

6. Pushchairs & prams when we bought our cameleon we disregarded Mothercare completely as you don't do any attractive offers. We bought from a shop that gave a free car seat and adapters.

7. Elc toys need updating, you're still selling exactly the same things as you did 10 years ago. Why would I want to buy more of what we already have or didn't want 10 years ago.

8. Why can't I use my gift vouchers online? This is archaic I don't know of any other retailer that won't let you use vouchers online.

9. Why aren't my emails ever answered? I've sent several from the website and I've never had a reply - ever.

10. I'd like to see more brands on sale rather than just Mothercare stuff.

Overall I'd hate to see Mothercare fold, for all its faults it's a stalwart of British life, however you have to come up with a usp that will encourage the public to visit your stores.

EauRouge Thu 21-Mar-13 20:38:57

Hi Simon, thanks for coming to talk to us and listen to our ideas.

A lot of the things I wanted to say have been said- please, please make extended rear-facing seats more available and let parents know about the safety aspect.

Also the pink/blue stuff; I really think Mothercare could lead the way in moving away from all that nonsense. We've all had enough and the tacky pink/blue stuff can be bought in a supermarket for half the price of Mothercare. How about some really good quality clothing that is more gender neutral so can be passed down from sibling to sibling? Like the denim dungarees you sell, they look ace (must pick some up for 4yo DD1)- stuff like that, practical and hard-wearing rather than mini-adult stuff.

And yes yes yes to decent slings! Baby Bjorns and the like are crap. How about having a sling event where mothers can try out a few different ones (ergos, wraps, ring slings etc) before they buy? More people would use them if they knew that comfortable ones were available, not like those back-destroying Baby Bjorns.

Could you be more breastfeeding friendly? Maybe give out flyers for local breastfeeding groups etc? I did see a breastfeeding stand in a branch of Mothercare once run by a local group, more of that sort of thing would be brilliant.

I have to say the customer service in my local branch is excellent and I would shop there more if I could find more that I liked.

AnneEyhtMeyer Thu 21-Mar-13 20:39:44

I have two Mothercare stores near me - a high street one and an out of town one. Both have their issues.

The high street store has a lot of things upstairs, but no lift. When DD was still in her pushchair this meant that I just didn't bother, as the only advice was to leave her downstairs. hmm

The out of town one has loads of items piled on the floor, making it difficult to get round and it looks scruffy. It reminds me of Woolworths before it closed.

The ELC toys are depressingly pink v blue. I went to get the Build IT Construction Starter Set, found it, took it to the till. The assistant engaged me in conversation about how good it was, and I told her I was sure DD would love it. As soon as she realised I was buying for a girl she was insistent that I needed the pink version. I told her it wasn't compulsory.

But forget all of the above, the thing I really want to say is this: I find the Baby K clothing range and the Myleene Klass branding very off-putting. Over-priced clothes and questionable styling for children. The tie-in with Myleene actually puts me off buying anything at all in Mothercare, it really seems to pull the shop downmarket.

bringonthesummer Thu 21-Mar-13 21:14:41

How are you going to improve customer service in your stores ? I have experienced very rude staff in mothercare stores on several occasions including once in front of my Dd . Mothercare are in very competitive market and in mho good customer service can be make or break these days . I used to buy my daughter clothes in mothercare but she is past mothercare now and I do not like the boys clothes (Ds is 2 ) As others have said , look at John lewis , h&m and marks and spencer. Also not sure why but everything on mothercare website is always sold out ?!?

StrawberryMojito Thu 21-Mar-13 21:19:04

I'm a regular Mothercare customer as I have a large store within walking distance of my house.

My suggestions:
Get rid of the Baby K range- overpriced and not very nice.
The £2.50 tops are great for nursery goers.
Could you standardise your sizing. I bought DS 2 12-18 month tops, one was big, the other was small.
Lay more toys out in the ELC area. More parents will bring their toddlers in to kill 20 mins and inevitably end up buying something. If they are like me.
Make your book section more affordable. Currently, if I think DS likes a book he has seen at Mothercare, I order it from Amazon. Maybe some buy one get one half price type offers.
The maternity section and newborn section are too expensive. Compete with the supermarkets.

On the whole I like Mothercare and all the staff I have encountered have been great.

RaisingGirls Thu 21-Mar-13 21:24:52

You are brave, nest of vipers round here, didn't you know? wink

I have a few comments:

Please, please, please get your staff properly trained to fit maternity/nursing bras. The number of women who come to me (nct bra fitter) with a poorly fitted bra by mothercare, risking their health as well as their comfort, is shocking and disappointing. There should be someone available in the store to fit bras all the time, and they should know what they are doing. Ill fitting nursing bras can cause mastitis, it's not ok to just have a best guess at what fits (and then not have that size in stock anyway) hmm

I am really disappointed with the pink/blue thing with clothes and toys. It's been said before by other posters, I know.

Please also train your staff on Extended Rear Face car seats, and then please also stock some in stores! A friend was told this week by a member of staff in one of your stores that "mothercare do not stock ERF seats because it is illegal to keep your baby rear facing after 1 year". Luckily my friend knows differently, but this kind of wrong information seems typical of the poor training of mothercare staff, sadly.

DD1 is 4 and she knows the mothercare brand, even though she can't read - this is a good thing as far as brand recognition goes for your company, I hope it stays in business. By listening to your potential customers through forums such as this, you are definitely heading the right way. smile

LovesBeingWokenEveryNight Thu 21-Mar-13 21:26:35

Hello simon

I seem to recall a similar interaction previously and am unaware of any actions taken so hope this is useful.

My question is very simple, why can't I walk around mothercare pushing my pram? The layout is just not suitable to push a push chair around (do surely not for a wheelchair either).

mamacoffee Thu 21-Mar-13 21:27:06

toddler toilets would be a great help, how come not all mothercare stores have them?

also how do you ensure you have helpful staff in all your branches? the branch i used to go to (chelmsford if you're interested) had really unhelpful staff, none of them seemed to care. in contrast the one in edmonton and westfield stratford has the most helpful staff ever!!

PuddingsAndPies Thu 21-Mar-13 21:29:28

I worked part-time at Mothercare about 8 years ago. Because of my experiences as a member of staff, I refuse to shop there now I am a mother.

There were so many things wrong with the experience - we were chronically understaffed, to the point that we, as a group of teenagers, were hauling heavy boxes around the stockroom, off very high shelves, for no extra money. It was freely admitted that that was because stockroom staff were an unnecessary expense.

I was expected to give bra fittings to pregnant and breastfeeding women. With absolutely no training. We were given a reference card with measurements and their bra size conversion. That was all. If those women, at such a vulnerable time, had had any idea that they probably had more knowledge of their bra size than we, the staff did, they would have almost certainly decided to take their custom elsewhere.

There was so much pressure to get people to sign up for store cards (which I don't morally agree with pushing on people anyway). We were told that the person who got the fewest sign ups would have to clean the staff toilets as a 'forfeit'. As a part-timer, I was automatically at a disadvantage. I quit at the point that I was expected to take on the role as cleaner in addition to everything else.

I don't really have a question. I just want to tell you how bad things were even less than a decade ago, & hope that things have improved now. Adequate staffing and training should definitely be a priority.

MrsMarigold Thu 21-Mar-13 21:32:31

I live in North London and am really disappointed with Mothercare, - I just don't feel it provides value. I'm not a fan of the clothes either - I like bold primary colours and plain stripes, plain colours or spots without cartoon characters or twee bears. That said, I bought some bodysuits from Mothercare for my son aged 22 months a while back (plain bright clear colours) they are great - but there were no long sleeved ones and what's the deal with all the white. It gets so grubby - I think you could really differentiate yourself by going for logo free bright, clear coloured clothes. Simplicity rather than fussy detailing . Also it is expensive compared to M&S and even John Lewis.

Also please could you put on suitable music I remember being in there and hearing something really loud and more appropriate to a nightclub than a shop where you bring children. It would be great to have some nursery songs or stories like the Gruffalo audiobooks or even just classical music.

Also the stores seem to close early - why?

LaVitaBellissima Thu 21-Mar-13 21:34:13

Hi Simon,

I have only used mothercare twice in the last 2 years, as I always found our local John Lewis (Kingston) had a much better range, and was a lot cleaner. I have spent an absolute fortune in there.
Most new mums are very paranoid about dirt, germs & sterilising everything, all the potties, baths etc in your Bentals Kingston branch were filthy and the maternity wear was unflattering and badly fitting. I walked straight out. I have to say the Kew branch is better with the nursing area, and the staff in Hounslow were really helpful.

I ended up buying my maternity wear in a Blooming marvellous closing down sale, they were a great brand which ironically Mothercare bought out. Are you still selling it under that name?

Have to say you should be sending Gazzalw & jbakedbean a nice gift for their brilliant advice!

tumblebug Thu 21-Mar-13 22:01:24

Hi, I shop at Mothercare quite a bit and really like a lot of your products - some of the clothes, ELC, some cuddly toys that I saw recently.

The baby change/ feeding facilities and toilets are great. Last week there were nappies and wipes in there - really useful.

Some things really frustrate me though, and put me off shopping there.

At my previous local store (a bigger store) it often felt like there were a lot of staff standing around doing not very much, but trying to get someone to help was really difficult - I would often wander round the buggy or car seat section, not be able to find anyone to help or advise, and walk out again. Very helpful staff at my new local store though.

Price labelling can be poor - still rely on sticky price labels, I often can't find a price on an item or on the shelf.

I took an item to pay (at full price), and found out there was a substantial price reduction - I very nearly didn't buy it as I felt it was too expensive, but was very happy at the price I paid in the end. Surely if price is reduced to encourage sales, this should be clearly marked/ advertised?

Buckette Thu 21-Mar-13 22:04:33

Hi, in general I enjoy shopping at the 2 larger stores local to me, although I was not inpressed in the main by the maternity clothes when I was expecting last year, and echo the above comments on the Baby K range. One further gripe: I bought some socks like these when my little one was very little and I didn't know any better. It turns out that socks like these just don't stay on baby's feet (I assume it's not just my baby that couldn't keep them on? ). This may seem like a very little thing but as a store that specialises in baby products I would expect Mothercare to sell things that actually do their job as it were. The socks I've purchased from Morissons and Aldi of all places were much better...

cooper44 Thu 21-Mar-13 22:09:31

Hi Simon - I have a gazillon ideas of how Mothercare could improve but here's my most recent one after a trip to Kingston last week. I was actually going to write to you so it's a stroke of luck you are here.

I find it absolutely amazing in the country's leading baby high street retailer why a baby feed/change room would have an overflowing bin of nappies and a feeding bench right next to it. We decided not to feed in Mothercare that day and went and sat in the car in a dark and dingy car park instead. Still it was preferable to a smelly baby room.

In a vast store I don't understand why there can't be space for a small feeding area and then a separate baby change. Surely this has to be possible?!
Then I might just come and buy some baby-gros for my five month old.

Just thought I'd mention, the staff in the Sheffield city centre branch, and out at Crystal Peaks have been lovely when we've been in. They looked like they needed a little cheering up at Meadowhall though (though I suspect that was just be because of the soulless corner of the building they're stuck in). It didn't inspire me to linger.

Nothing else springs to mind, I've not been in for a while - apart from wellies, you always seem to have every pattern, make and model but only in Size 4.

And can you please sell swimming trunks/suits in the winter, at least in the little sizes where they're still growing so fast, for trips to the local swimming baths.

namechanger4097 Thu 21-Mar-13 22:14:32

Hi there

I took my 2 year old to your store on the Old Kent Road last Saturday. We went to buy some knickers as she's potty training. She needed the loo when we were in there and were abruptly told there wasn't a customer toilet and we should go across the (very busy dual carriageway) road to Toys R Us. Isn't it policy to have a children's toilet in stores - especially larger, newer ones like this?

Also, the knickers for sale are almost all pink, with princesses and peppa pig on. Not everyone wants to dress their girls in head to toe pink and boys in blue and the styles are dated.


Oh, and you know at Halfords how they'll help you fit your new car seat so it's safe and properly in - that's very helpful, maybe you could do that too?

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