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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.

owlface Thu 21-Mar-13 22:18:20

I don't have a question but wanted to say I'm in my 30s and actually remember looking through Mothercare catalogues as a child, so now I'm pregnant it was the first place I went. However although I have made several visits to look at maternity clothes, cots, nappies, buggies and baby clothes, I haven't bought a single thing from Mothercare. Certainly part of this is down to customer service as compared to other stores eg Kiddicare, Babies R Us, I have felt ignored in Mothercare. I know sometimes shoppers do not like to be approached and prefer to be left to browse but for an overwhelmed and clueless first time mother it would be nice to be acknowledged, pointed in the right direction and given advice. Once I did not realise the store was about to close until they turned the lights off and closed the shutters! It would have been better to ask the few remaining shoppers if we needed any help finding something as the store would be closing in ten minutes.

I agree with the pink and blue toy comments. I was disappointed not to find anything I liked for my two year old niece's birthday present recently as everything seemed far too gender stereotyped.

sleepyhead Thu 21-Mar-13 22:55:22

The move to out of town doesn't work for me.

7 years ago, when pg with ds1, we bought most of our starter kit from Mothercare. It was a known brand to me (who had no experience of babies up to that point) so it seemed like the place to go, and felt like a bit of a milestone, buying cot sheets, first teddy, first outfit etc.

This time round, pg with ds2, we don't need the big items, but apart from a (badly ill-fitting - no changing rooms!) pair of maternity jeans and one outfit, most stuff has come from Tesco or John Lewis. Tesco, because I'm there every week, John Lewis because it's on the high street so I can impulse buy. I'm just a lot less likely to make a special trip to a retail park.

Oh yes, I agree about the state of the toilets (although I think the one I visited recently doesn't have customer toilets any more) - I do remember them being really dirty.

ShrewveTuesday Thu 21-Mar-13 23:17:20

OK - first up, I spent nearly £400 in Mothercare (including pram) preparing for DD's arrival. And I've had some excellent quality items from the store (still trying to squeeze DD into the Best Winter Coat Ever).

However:

The pink-and-blue stuff makes the brand look cheap (Asda, Sainsbury's, M&S all do the pink and blue thing - it just screams "supermarket").

The stores always seem to look like a jumble sale - including the Oxford St one where I bought the pram. The stock-keeping is rubbish - nothing in the right size. I've often thought I'm looking at a sale rail - but no - that's the new season stock! I don't actually need more cute baby things - what I want is the shopping experience - lovely pristine little items in gorgeous colours, beautifully laid out - and then I might buy something.

As others have said, your brand recognition is second to none - do something with it! You are losing custom (or failing to gain it) all the time. I've made several trips into Mothercare over the last two years but have bought nothing because I couldn't find what I wanted (or the store was horrible).

The Baby K stuff is nasty, trashy tat.

ELC used to be wonderful - but is now (largely) overpriced, gender-stereotyped plastic tat.

Maternity wear is awful - M'care was my first port of call but I couldn't find anything that didn't make me look like a hooker, so I bought at Gap instead.

Slogans on T-shirts etc - also not a good look. I am not a fan of licensed characters either, though I realize they have their place.

I think you use the same photographer as M&S for your website photos, don't you? The one who used to be a police duty photographer.

Don't compromise on the quality of your best quality items (I've had a fab snowsuit and coat as gifts - I never see these things instore) but try to make the quality more consistent across the brand.

As PP have said, stores can be surprisingly filthy (not all).

YY to loud inappropriate music. Something baby-friendly please.

Since I've got you here - your changing mats do not last for the nappied-life of one baby! Mine self-destructed after 15 months, and a friend's did even earlier. Heard this complaint numerous times. Just make them properly, dammit.

Customer service needs work - I've heard stupid stories about Mothercare vouchers not being accepted in ELC stores (or even for ELC purchases within the same store hmm). This is plainly ridiculous and gives you a bad name.

My ideal of the Mothercare brand is something akin to John Lewis - the reality usually falls short, mostly on customer service and shopping experience.

Finally, I hope you weren't responsible for the customer service ethos of LoveFilm - what a crock of shit that was.

superoz Thu 21-Mar-13 23:19:24

As the mother of a now 5 year old I remember frequenting Mothercare a lot during pregnancy and in the first year but this started to tail off.
The last time I was in a store was a year ago buying for a friend. What struck me was that there were some items still age appropriate for my 5 year old but the marketing just wasn't there. The layout of stores needs to be reviewed and the clothing in particular - why do I feel you do not cater for children beyond 2 years old?
Also the ELC concessions seem to have very limited stock and on occasion I have had to go elsewhere because of this.

FairPhyllis Thu 21-Mar-13 23:50:35

I went to Mothercare in Sunderland at Christmas to buy a present for a new baby. I wasn't very excited by the selection or the prices and ended up buying some plastic stacking cups from M&S, who I hadn't previously realised did some baby things.

I don't have children yet, but I plan to, and Mothercare would have been my first port of call because I remember it and the ELC from my own childhood (I'm in my 30s). But now I will probably end up shopping around - I know now that in Sunderland alone M&S, Next and Boots do baby stuff - even though a one-stop-baby-shop would probably be more convenient.

Oh yes and the ELC in Sunderland is full of nasty tat and is miles from Mothercare.

KathrynsMum Thu 21-Mar-13 23:51:13

I could add to discussions of the range of lines stocked in baby-carriers (slings) and rear-facing seats, but I'll stick to just one area - I'll add in another plea that Mothercare TRAIN staff in fitting feeding bras correctly.
If you don't want to do that then I do think you have a responsibility (as a well-known & trusted brand for first-time parents) to state very clearly that you don't do it well and warn visiting Mothers-to-be that they need to ensure a good fit to safeguard their health.

Could you signpost to well-trained fitters in the local area, or get an expert to design an informational poster which clearly describes what Mums can look out for for themselves? That would be better than giving mothers the impression that staff are measuring correctly?

My work means I attend many local breastfeeding support groups - when we meet women with persistent blocked ducts / mastitis then one of the first things we talk about is how well her feeding bra is fitted. Mothercare is a consistent culprit, I'm sorry to say. Other mothers in the group share their experiences and recommend online sources, or a local Debenhams store.
We have heard tales of woe from Mums who've purchased a few packs marked with the same size only to discover a very wide range of fitting.

And talking of breastfeeding support - if you are going to print information leaflets then PLEASE get it written/checked out by an IBCLC (a list is here - www.lcgb.org).
Well done for coming on Mumsnet to gather opinions from your ex-customers (but it sounds like you could just check yr inbox now & then??!!)

MoetEtPantsOn Fri 22-Mar-13 00:54:27

I am in Australia where Mothercare has just gone into administration, which is very sad. For me some of the comments on here do not resonate- the staff here are unfailingly delightful and helpful. I think that the prices were the downfall over here- the clothes compared poorly to many other more well known, local brands.

At the moment, all stock is being sold off, but even with the discounts it is still expensive by comparison - particularly the ELC branded items.

Are you able to comment on the future here? Is the out of town approach one that will be taken here?

Thank you

hufflepup Fri 22-Mar-13 03:19:24

Hi Simon,

I'm an army wife and we were recently posted abroad. I was pregnant and ordered a lot of maternity things from Mothercare.

British armed forces serving overseas have their post delivered from the UK by the military postal service. We are given a BFPO (British Forces Posted Overseas) address and the normal postal service delivers post to a special UK sorting office where the military system takes over for free.

Why why why, when all Mothercare have to do is get my post to a UK address like any other, does it cost so much extra to have things delivered to BFPO addresses? It makes us very cross over here & could be seen as discriminatory against the armed forces. (Which isn't very nice of you really after we gave you the military wives choir and all that) please explain.

Thank you!

sleepywombat Fri 22-Mar-13 03:41:18

Hi Simon,

I am an expat living in Australia, so unlike the other posters, find UK Mothercare very good value (here we have little choice & everything is ridiculously priced).

When I first moved here 4 years ago, I was able to order online from you & have it delivered to me.

Then you decided to open shops in Australia (the nearest one was only a 24 hour drive/3 hour flight from me, so obviously I didn't go), hoiked up the prices, limited a lot of the ranges & stopped delivering from the UK.

Now that your Aus shops have gone into administration, will you consider delivering here again?

PurplePidjin Fri 22-Mar-13 05:48:21

Hi Simon, this is an excellent place to do your research and I hope you manage to implement at least some of these suggestions.

There is some evidence to suggest that the type of baby carrier most commonly promoted by your store (and other big names) can contribute to hip dysplasia in very young babies. What are your thoughts on this? Is there a possibility that you could promote more natural ways to support a carried baby, either by stocking more ergonomic styles of soft structured carrier or promoting wrap types?

Also, there used to be an excellent product called the Mothercare Smart Nappy. There is a roaring trade in these on sites like ebay, yet Mothercare discontinued the line. Living in a society trying to reduce waste, what are your reasons for withdrawing support from the reusable nappy market?

Thank you smile

Saundy Fri 22-Mar-13 06:40:06

Hi I'm pregnant with my first & it's a bit early to be buying anything yet but I'll give you my thoughts on Mothercare. Although I know nothing about these things it still feels like a quality brand & name you can trust, so in principle shopping there does appeal/feel slightly like a right of passage.

But then it all goes a bit wrong when you get to the local store, which is perfectly fine, with lovely staff - who all look like mothers & aren't intimidating/annoying like a group of say students would be. Everything just looks bland, lots of safe choices that don't excite me.

I'm another that HATES the blue pink divide (as do my friends) & you seem to offer very little else.

I like colour & interesting design & you don't get much of either in your stores.

On another note when a colleague recently went on maternity leave & we did a collection I (apparently naively) suggested MC vouchers, which got a firm no from everyone with children as "it's far too expensive & the money will go further elsewhere." I do get the distinct impression that I would be seen as wasteful if I shopped there - something worth considering in the current climate. I can see why as you don't get anything that exciting for your money.

DorcasDelIcatessen Fri 22-Mar-13 08:36:18

When I was pregnant with my first in 2003 I went pram shopping at my local Mothercare (Ancoats) and received excellent service. The lady concerned was very thorough and spent nearly an hour helping me to select the right pram. She even bagged up all my purchases and helped me to the car. I didn't get her name but she was a lovely middle aged lady with blonde hair and the biggest smile.
When I was pregnant with my third in 2008 the differences were stark. That lady was long gone. There were two girls stood at the checkout bickering. I saw one girl ( I say girls, they were no older than 17, 18...) near the prams and when I asked her to get me a bouncer chair she said she was too busy to help me and stormed off. I asked one of the girls on the checkout and she got me one after doing the biggest grunt and storming off without a word. The store was filthy and the big tubs of Sudocrem were covered in a black film of dust. A lot of the tights were covered in dirt (no doubt after being dropped on the floor or left lying around by customers.) and though there were hundreds of pairs of 6 - 12 month ones any smaller or bigger sizes were as rare as hens teeth.

I would say as a former shop worker myself please don't follow the advice of a previous poster and play nursery rhymes or childrens songs into the store. Hearing the same music over and over during a 12 hour shift is mind numbing and tedious. Its not fair to the staff. Thanks for reading and try to let us know what your plans are going to be. Good luck.

Wincher Fri 22-Mar-13 08:54:35

My nearest branch is the Edmonton one and I am VERY impressed with it since its revamp - it's now somewhere I take my son as a destination as he loves the play areas, and of course I normally buy something while I'm there. Definitely a model to be copied elsewhere - the store is clean, spacious, stocks a good range of products, including the Clarks and ELC sections, has several play areas, plus a Costa Coffee.

However I would add my voice to the pleas for less gender division in the toys. I hate the way there is a pink version of everything. There's just no need!

Mckenngp1 Fri 22-Mar-13 09:30:12

Hi I would like to ask why you have stopped selling school uniform and if you have plans to reintroduce? I was so disappointed not to be able to buy school uniform from mothercare as it was quite simply the best in my opinion.

DyeInTheEar Fri 22-Mar-13 09:36:22

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?

Though I think it's a brilliant range - lovely clothes - and I've done click and collect and very happy with online to store service.

Hi,

It's great that a company is willing to brave come onto MN particularly as your company seems to be one of the least popular at the minute!

Again, my customer service experience at Mothercare has been awful. I wanted to talk to staff about buggies when I was pregnant and tried 2 stores, both had poorly trained and, quite frankly, rude staff. We did find one very pleasant lady who had only worked there for a couple of weeks (so hadn't had a chance to pick up the 'we don't care' attitude?!)

On several occasions I've tried to buy items from stores (I'm a childminder and like the paints and craft items) only to leave a full basket at the tills because staff are too busy having a chat to serve customers.

Also, agree on the gender segregation of toys, the children I mind (and my daughter) enjoy playing with small world toys. The Happyland range is fantastic but the wooden toys (particularly Rosebud Village) are so sickly pink I refuse to buy them.

Sorry, it's a bit long!

milktraylady Fri 22-Mar-13 09:49:43

Please less of pink for girls blue for boys rubbish.

Why don't you have seats in your shops? Surely lots of pregnant people are your customers. Kiddicare has seats, so I shop there.

Good luck against kiddicare, a much better shopping experience & prices lower there!

milktraylady Fri 22-Mar-13 09:54:09

Please read the bra intervention threads on mumsnet- I can't buy any of your nursing bras as I am already (at 37 weeks) outside your stock range. We need smaller back sizes & larger cup sizes! Thanks.

Also if staff are not really doing anything & there is a queue at the till & pregnant people in the queue- it would be good customer service to open more tills so we don't have to stand (in agony). Never happens in mothercare hmm

happyfrogger Fri 22-Mar-13 09:58:45

Hi Simon,

My local Mothercare (Wimbledon) closed down so I shop online. Unfortunately the 3 times I have done this I have had problems, including:

1) Items arriving in 3 separate packages on 3 different days from the same order
2) Twice, packages not showing up on the day I took off work and waited in

I accept problems happen very occasionally but 3 out of 3 is not good and has put me offer returning as a customer, which is a shame as I like your products. On calling customer services I was advised that this 'happens quite a lot' and that 'we suspect sometimes our drivers just nick stuff - they're not as good as they used to be' - I was so taken aback I didn't know what to say!!

Do you have plans to reconsider your delivery company?

NoRoomForMeInMyBed Fri 22-Mar-13 10:00:07

I have used the Mothercare website twice, borh times my order has been wrong due to stock being available online but not in real life, this must be an easy issue to address?!?

Every mothercare shop I have ever visited (slough guildford reading and the now defunkt windsor shop has the same problems, dirty floors, stock all over the floor and no staff to pick it up, cashiers have no clue how to operate tills (slough store had 4 staff trying to do a simple return) and generally shabby allround. The shops just come across as very badly run.

On a good point I am very pleased to see you stocking ERF car seats, please make this a priority, let mothercare be the leading chain to educate and bring ERF to the masses! Its a shocking state of affairs that parents arent informed and have a good choice of ERF seats available.

FrillyMilly Fri 22-Mar-13 10:28:44

I live quite close to a large mothercare but rarely venture in. The problem I have is there seems to be no real brand identity. The clothes for example - the baby k range is awful trashy mini me clothes and the jools Oliver is more like Jojo maman bebe, the rest of the clothes range from classic style to character to similar to what is available in the supermarket. Pick a concept please.

The toys seriously needs a rebrand. Before I had children (4 and 1) the ELC was different to other toy shops. More educational toys, less plastic and great craft/messy play. As soon as mothercare took over all that went out the window and last time I went in it's blue for boys and pink for girls. Why does my daughter need a pink car garage? I would prefer it to be bright, colourful unisex toys especially since I have a daughter and a son. If this is something you have already done/doing you need to make it very clear as I am unaware of it.

PeachyApricot Fri 22-Mar-13 10:42:22

Would second everything that's already been said about Baby K; and the quality of your baby vests/baby gros has gone down considerably in the 4 years between buying them for DC1 and DC2 - much thinner material...

Toilets in the stores that I have frequented have never been clean, whatever time of day and usually have something missing (toilet roll, toilet seat on a couple of occasions...) and why don't you have the doors opening out wards on the cubicles like they do in Kiddicare?

When I was pregnant with DC 1 I bought maternity clothes and bras from you as I didn't know any better and relied on your brand reputation. For DC 2 I knew better and bought elsewhere, mainly Next/ H&M for clothes and M&S for bras, who's fitting service was much better.

What I need from your store is good quality, reasonably priced clothes for babies and young children - less of the motifs (though they do have their place) and a range colours, not just pink and peach for girls/ blue and sludge green for boys.

And finally, your till points are a mess - a load of out of season tat on and around the counter and members of staff who seem incapable of processing a refund half the time. And I don't want to keep getting vouchers offering me the chance to win £250 if I go online and fill in a questionnaire about their store.

Sorry for the grumbles, I applaud you for coming to talk to us - Ill applaud you even more if things actually happen as a result!

NigelMolesworth Fri 22-Mar-13 10:55:57

Thank you for coming in Simon!

I hope that, although a lot of these comments seem negative, you'll realise that there is a huge swell of affection for the Mothercare brand. We all want it to be successful, and want it to be a place we want to shop in, hence the huge amount of comments...

Although I haven't needed to shop there for a while now as my DDs are getting older, but here are my comments:

1. Completely agree with the blue/pink colour point that everyone else is raising. It makes me cross to the point that I currently won't shop in ELC...

2. My memory of Mothercare maternity clothes is that they were shapeless and uninteresting. But particularly, maternity clothes don't follow the same principle as standard high street fashion. If I went shopping for standard (ie non maternity) clothes today, I would expect to find clothes for the next season ie Spring/early summer clothes which would be OK to be worn in the next few weeks/months. When you go into Mothercare to buy a pair of maternity jeans, you want to wear them now (because your other clothes don't fit). You don't want to be faced with racks of summer linen cropped trousers which might be suitable for the weather in a couple of months time. So stop putting summer maternity clothes in the shops in April!

3. Cleanliness is a real issue. I don't want to have to take a toddler to an in-store toilet, only to have to hiss 'Don't touch ANYTHING!'

4. You need to come up with a clever way to make the smaller stores easy to negotiate with a pushchair.

Good luck!

NoRoomForMeInMyBed Fri 22-Mar-13 10:57:22

Maternity clothes, ok, all we need is good quality jersey items in plain colours no slogans no patterns, just plain comfortable matching pieces, leggings longline tops cardigans and wrapdresses, good enough for work yet comfy for everyday. If you had done a maternity capsule wardrobe like that I would have bought it all. Yet I have never bought anything from the mothercare maternity range as it is just cheap looking clothes that dont fit, believe me I tried them all on.
Look at Mrs Beckham, sje has looked very stylish throughout 4 pregnancies and you as a maternity retailer dont stock anything similar? What are you thinking?

PaulRoberts Fri 22-Mar-13 10:57:44

Hi Simon,

Great to have you on here. I have had a few issues recently with customer service at a SW London store (I won't go into details on here) and with the ever changing times and social media becoming so prevalent in today's society I have
taken to Twitter and Facebook to try and get answers but to no avail. Can you tell me what you are doing to improve your social media customer service?

Thanks and have a good day

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