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    iCandy Ambassador: Babycare of Dagenham

    We caught up with store owner, Sue who has been running the hugely successful Baby Care Dagenham nursery store for over 34 years.

    Sue kindly took the time to explain to us not only her industry insights, but also what it means to be one of our newly announced iCandy Brand Ambassadors!

    TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE BUSINESS- WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION TO OPEN THE STORE?

    My husband, Morris and I decided to start our own business 34 years ago. The inspiration came from my own pregnancy and not being able to find what I wanted or anything nice when I had my son (who is now 36 years old!) and I felt the need to do something about changing this as other parents must have felt the same, so decided to open the store.

    SINCE LAUNCHING, HOW HAS IT GROWN AND DEVELOPED?

    We started with a small shop in Maryland, London, then as sales grew and grew we gradually moved to the larger store in Upton Park expanding on from just toys to having a full nursery range available. The business has exceeded expectations and has just grown and grown over the past 34 years, allowing us to expand and move to various different units, across different areas within the Dagenham area. It has been wonderful to see the store grow over this time to the large Dagenham premises we have now.

    We did get to a point where we were running 3 stores, then the recession hit in the 90’s and changed how we decided to run the business moving forward. This store in Dagenham was always my favourite and customers found it easy and accessible to come to, so closing the Upton Park store, which was very ‘football’ orientated over the weekends, was an easy choice for us.

    The unit that we are sitting in now actually had been in operation for over 60 years as a nursery store; but in 2002 we managed to buy all three units together to have this larger store, which is perfect for us to showcase our entire nursery range plus house our bespoke iCandy stand.

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TRADING WITH ICANDY FOR AND HOW HAS ICANDY HELPED SUPPORT YOU DURING THIS TIME?

    Since day 1! I was one of the first customers Martin visited, and he showed us the Apple 2 Pear and that’s where it all started! We began trading with a limited edition Apple 2 Pear that had an amazing velvet/ flock fabric chassis that just sold out almost immediately!

    We have always loved iCandy and we have worked together through everything that has come up over the years. Peach has always been a favourite, our store manager Ali has a Peach for his first child, my daughter in law loves her Raspberry and my other daughter has a Peach too, so the brand is both close to our hearts personally and professionally.

    TELL ME ABOUT YOUR STAFF?

    There are eight team members currently at Baby Care Dagenham, with our Floor Manager Ali, our longest serving member who has been with us for over 10 years. We also have Roxy, Ellie, Trudi, Niya, Morris my husband and Melodie, who work across the week and weekends when we are at our busiest.

    I also have to mention Linda, who was with us for 25years and sadly we lost her nearly two years ago from cancer. She was like my sister and we closed the store to attend her funeral.

    WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES TO DATE?

     

    The Recession in the early 90’s had a massive impact on us plus moving units over the years but everything going online has proven to be one of the biggest challenges we have faced in the past 5 years. We remain strong and are proud to say even with online posing a threat we have never struggled for sales and are lucky to have seen sales grown year on year. The high-street as we know it is changing though with more customers telling me that they are finding in-store retail has changed with customer’s service dropping or store closures, like we have seen recently with Toys R Us. But again, luckily we have stayed strong through these tough times by never dropping our high levels of customer service and consistently having only the best, high quality products on our shop floor so customers always make the extra effort to come visit us.

    THE INDUSTRY IS VERY COMPETITIVE- HOW DO YOU STAY ONE STEP AHEAD? HOW DO YOU DRIVE TRAFFIC AND AWARENESS TO YOUR STORE AND WEBSITE?

    We have a strong following across our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter social accounts and even have a team member dedicated to look after these channels, as we see that our customers enjoy talking to us over messenger and appreciate the fast, direct response.

    Our website is lovely but I hope to always drive our customers back to the store. Service is very important to us. Here at Baby Care Dagenham, we do not just sell you a ‘box,’ we understand you are buying your first pram and therefore must have a good experience surrounding this and we NEVER sell for the sake of selling. We have a wide range of prices in store and always want to help the customer in making the best decision for their own personal needs and requirements.

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU AS A RETAILER TO BE AN ICANDY AMBASSADOR?

    We have always sold iCandy well but since the bespoke-built stand has been put into store, it has really added to the presentation of the products and looks beautiful! We look forward to adding the new Peach to join our extensive iCandy range.

    Plus if I have faith in a brand to deliver quality products plus know the customer service support is there then it is easier to sell and I feel I have this relationship with iCandy, even more so now as an ambassador.

    We go back for such a long time, the service is always improving and the relationship just goes from strength to strength. We only advertise through word of mouth and recommendation so knowing we have the support of the iCandy brand and team is so important to us.

    DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR CUSTOMERS RESEARCH PRODUCTS MORE NOW PRIOR TO PURCHASE?

    Yes, most definitely and with access to so many products being online we have really started to feel this. The customer’s product knowledge is improving but also we have seen a lot of ‘price wars’ on certain products too. We do not change our pricing and as such always explain to customers that come to our store that you are not just buying a ‘box’ but the whole experience and our high standards of customer service, which I feel you just do not get when you buy online.

    DO YOU THINK THE SEASONS EFFECT BUYING DECISIONS OF YOUR CUSTOMERS?

    We do see across October, November and December are slightly quieter times for us but sales are always consistent. I do think that stores are up against online competition with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November which does have a knock on effect during this period. January is when it picks up and are always very, very busy with sales, but overall sales are steady throughout the year as people are always having babies!

    IS THERE A PRODUCT AT THE MOMENT THAT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST-HAVE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS?

    As we sell pushchairs specific to each customer’s needs over just making a ‘sale’ we find that there are star products across all the iCandy products we have. We do have particular customers that specifically want the ‘newest’ things and will travel across the country to see us for this. As we are in Essex, we do find that money is no object when it comes to getting exactly what they want for their new baby.

    WHEN BUYING FOR YOUR STORE WHAT FEATURES STAND OUT TO YOU WITHIN A PUSHCHAIR?

    The 6 million dollar question!

    Brand marketing really helps a product sell in store and colours are very important- the grey has been key over the years but has existed in the market place for a long time now and am looking forward to seeing what the next big colour trend will be. I have seen Navy is making a coming back and wood-effect details may take off in 2019 too.

    Good quality features, such as leather handle bars, are definitely something I look out for as the ‘over all’ look of a pushchair is what a lot of customer look for. I see a lot of customers buy with their heart not their head, so aesthetics are really key when first time parents buy their first pushchair. Plus, seasonally the brighter colours also do well so like to keep this in mind when I am buying for the following year.

    iCandy Ambassador: Bump Start Baby Shop

    We caught up with store owner, Helen Hickman who has been running the hugely successful Bump Start nursery store in Milton Keynes for the over 24 years.

    She kindly took the time to explain to us not only her industry insights, but also what it means to be one of our newly announced iCandy Brand Ambassadors!

    The Bumpstart experience:

    With some of the most trained and knowledgeable staff in the Milton Keynes area, Helen and her team are understandably one of the most recommended and sought after stores in the Buckinghamshire area for nursery products. Boasting an impressive 24 successful years trading, and situated in a quirky converted barn on their family farm just outside the quaint and rural village of, Whaddon, Helen and her experienced team pride themselves with their exemplary customer service in intimate and personal surroundings.

    We caught up with Helen just after Bumpstart was announced as an official iCandy brand ambassador to find out what that means to her personally and professionally…..

    TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BUMPSTART- WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION TO OPEN THE STORE?

    Coming from a long line of farmers, it was actually something my father helped make a dream come to fruition. He managed to find an incredible barn right by our family estate and it was on 2nd February 1993 we officially opened our doors. It has been a learning curve from the start but we have been proudly independent for the past 10 years and since this decision, Bumpstart has just grown from strength to strength

    SINCE LAUNCHING BUMPSTART, HOW HAS IT GROWN AND DEVELOPED?

    I think the secret of our success is due to being an independent store. Currently, there are no independent nursery stores in Milton Keynes so there was immediate appeal and draw for young couples and families to have that one-on-one personal experience and second to none customer services that are sometimes missing in the larger national franchises in the area.

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TRADING WITH iCANDY FOR AND HOW HAS iCANDY HELPED SUPPORT YOU DURING THIS TIME?

    I remember when Martin first arrived at the store back when the Apple was first on the market- so we were one of the first independent stores to pick up iCandy over 12- 13 years ago. It was quite funny when he first arrived as we are a very technical-minded team and I think we surprised him with the knowledge we had- I think we even managed to ask him a question that he couldn’t even answer! But in fairness, this was almost at the very start of the iCandy’s business and since then Martin and the whole team at iCandy have become a brand that has always fully supported us throughout the years and can even answer some of our hard technical questions!

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR STAFF?

    I am so proud of my staff- they always have so much patience with all the customers and we pride ourselves on giving one-on-one advice as soon as a customer walks into the store. I have also been very lucky to have such a dedicated team that has been with me for a number of years, as Janette has been with me for 23 years, Susan for 19, and Katie for 7. We also have Charlotte (2 years) and our new addition Megan. We are such a tight team that we are also friends and i think our customers can feel that atmosphere as soon as they come to the store.

    WHAT WOULD YOU SAY HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES TO DATE?

    The larger, national stores and internet-based stores have and do pose a problem in the last year or so as they just have much wider exposure, which is why having the iCandy ambassadorship has proven so invaluable and has enabled us to elevate beyond all our competition and show that our customer service is what wins the sales over everything.

    THE INDUSTRY IS VERY COMPETITIVE- HOW DO YOU STAY ONE STEP AHEAD? HOW DO YOU DRIVE TRAFFIC AND AWARENESS TO YOUR STORE AND WEBSITE?

    A mix of social media presence is important, especially Facebook- which is a much more personable approach for us and we can directly talk to our customers over messenger in the same way and manner we would if they were in store. Email marketing has also been a very powerful tool for us and brings in a huge return time and time again but overall it always has to be the high volume of personal recommendations we receive that ultimately gets the footfall, and we are very proud of that.

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU AS A RETAILER TO BE AN iCANDY AMBASSADOR?

    We are so thrilled- the bespoke in-store display is stunning and really draws the customers to the iCandy stand as soon as they walk in. I also know the whole team at iCandy for many, many years and it is this friendship and personal support that has been so instrumental in our year on year growth and success. Plus having such a quirky store with over 3000 square feet available we are lucky enough to not only take full advantage of the beautifully bespoke display iCandy provided but also being able to hold the whole iCandy range has been amazing for the store as a whole too. Our customers can now see the entire range in one place and really see the branding and marketing behind each product.

    WHAT HAS iCANDY DONE FOR YOU SINCE BECOMING AN AMBASSADOR?

    Gosh- The beautiful stand has definitely been an incredible addition but also the iCandy expert badges- extraordinarily, since wearing the badges the sales have gone through the roof as I think it provides another layer of knowledge and assurance to our customers to see that we are recognised by the brand itself as iCandy experts.

    DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR CUSTOMERS RESEARCH PRODUCTS MORE NOW PRIOR TO PURCHASE?

    Absolutely- this is powered hugely by branding and marketing I find. Our customers are incredibly brand aware, plus social media has really given the consumer the platform to gain more knowledge behind the product, although saying that the customer is still very much open to hearing our experience and knowledge of the range in person too.

    DO YOU THINK THE SEASONS EFFECT BUYING DECISIONS OF YOUR CUSTOMERS?

    No…..not so much but there is always a rush September time because of the Christmas/ New Year break! Plus we do see a lot of Spring babies, again I think this because of the summer break! In fact, both of my own girls actually have birthdays in March and April! So there are definitely busier periods but overall people have babies all year round! IS

    THERE A PRODUCT AT THE MOMENT THAT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST-HAVE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS?

    The Peach is always a winner as it is such an iconic all-rounder- but I do expect the new products that are planned for 2018 to FLY! We are very excited for our customers to see the exciting iCandy products we have in store for the New Year that we placed during the Cologne trade show. Especially, as an independent store ambassador we will have exclusivity on some new colours on the new products launching, so we anticipate 2018 will be an exciting time! The Orange has also been gaining a lot of attention and is gaining momentum week on week- so we expect that will become a top seller throughout 2018 too.

    WHEN BUYING FOR YOUR STORE WHAT FEATURES STAND OUT TO YOU WITHIN A PUSHCHAIR?

    We obviously look at the technical side of things, and we always look at the history of the brand too. After being in the business for a long time we have also seen how important it is for the products to have a strong marketing campaign behind it as our customers are very brand-savvy and as such really buy into not only the ethos of the brand but also the overall aesthetic of the products campaign. iCandy ticks all these boxes year on year- especially to have support from a proactive team to support us has been a key reason for us buying into the brand for such a long time.

    DO YOU EXPECT CUSTOMER BUYING BEHAVIOURS TO CHANGE IN THE COMING MONTHS?

    I would like to see people dropping their phones and coming purely for the in-store experience, trusting the in-store experience over buying online. I think when buying for a baby it is so important to touch, feel, hold the actual product you want to buy- I think this is also why we are brand ambassadors as we are so knowledgeable about every product we hold and as such can provide customer service that will take you through each and every product to make the customer feel at ease and comfortable with their ultimate decision. We even assistant them in trying to fold the pushchair down and physically put it in their car boot so they know they are making the best decision for their own individual needs and lifestyle.

    WHAT IS YOUR TREND FORECAST FOR THE NEXT YEAR WITHIN DESIGN FEATURES AND FUNCTIONALITY?

    Rugged- all-terrain- hardy and sturdy pushchairs are definitely going to be a key trend for next year as the market has been missing this for a long time. Katy ( Store expert for over 7 years)- for the Bump Start customer they will be looking for a product that is sleek with a luxury finish but also has the functionality, especially after Brexit I feel customers are looking for longevity and choice in their pushchair, be it; turning it to all-terrain or not, converting to double or single mode. Choice and adaptability will be key trends in 2018. Colour wise, there has been a lot of grey in the past year and before that, there was a lot of navy across all the lines and as such, I think a fresh colour palette is well needed. I also feel in fabrics; linen, brushed-cotton feel fabric will prove hugely popular. I have also seen customers are now gravitating towards a more classic yet contemporary look.

    iCandy Ambassador: Jan Stewart Pram & Nursery Cte

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