iCandy Brand Ambassador Blog Q&A – Baby Barn

iCandy Brand Ambassador Blog Q&A – Baby Barn

Tell us about The Baby Barn – when did you open the store and what inspired you to do so?

 

The Baby Barn Pram & Nursery Centre is the largest independent nursery store in Warwickshire and is located in the small village of Marton, based on our family farm in a beautiful, converted grain barn, which was also used for lambing! Our location is only just a 20-minute drive from Coventry, Rugby, Leamington Spa, and 30 minutes from Banbury. The store opened its barn doors in June 1993 by a local farmer (my husband), Ian, and myself, Sue, when our daughter Lottie was just 9 months old. The business came about as a farm diversification opportunity after I found the experience of baby shopping in the area very limited and a bit disappointing, the old barn had become redundant. After seeing an advert in the Farmers Weekly about a franchise opportunity, we set about converting our lambing shed/grain store. Fast-forward 30 years, and we are still here. Our daughter Lottie came into the business during COVID-19 after maternity leave with our eldest Grandchild Freddie, as Chief Tester!

 

Since launching The Baby Barn, how has it grown and developed?

 

Since our humble beginnings, we have not only expanded the store, which has enabled us to increase the range of products on display but have also included a coffee shop to enhance the overall shopping experience with us. However, this has never distracted us from our main core value of providing the best customer experience in the UK for baby shopping. We do this by providing a memorable shopping experience and ensuring that all of our customers receive expert honest advice and assistance in a relaxed and welcoming environment.

 

How about your staff?

 

Our staff are our family. Tracie, Claire, Jess, Hayley, Silke, Rhiannon, and newly joined Vicki all take immense pride in what they do and are passionate about helping our customers find the right product. Many who come never leave, with Tracie coming up to her 20th year with us. Our team loves demonstrating prams and car seats; they are parents themselves, so they are really tuned in to helping customers find the right pram to suit their budget and lifestyle.

 

How long have you been trading with iCandy, and why did you decide to stock iCandy products?

 

We are one of the first stockists of iCandy, 16 years ago when the iCandy Apple was launched in the UK. The fact that it was a British Company, excellent quality, and only available in Independent stores was a definite bonus too. iCandy was and still is a welcoming company that we enjoy working with. We appreciate that they are always one step ahead with their design features and updates, which can certainly be seen in their newest model, the iCandy Core.

 

What is your bestselling iCandy product?

 

The iCandy Peach 7 – by a long run! The Peach range has always been the front-runner for us. The Orange appealed to those looking for something to double up or liked the idea of the integrated buggy board. However, now the Peach 7 has an integrated buggy board as well as being available with the amazing complete accessory bundles, it’s a no-brainer for us! The Peach 7 ticks all the boxes for the modern-day, on-the-go, busy parent. The carrycot is suitable for overnight sleeping, the pushchair can be converted to take a toddler and newborn or twins, and it's multi-terrain. The car seat adapters are universal and can be used with the new iCandy Cocoon Baby car seat, allowing flexibility for the customer to match with other car seat brands, which appeals to many customers too.

 

What have been your biggest challenges to date?

 

I am sure it’s the same for most independent retailers; the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge challenge for us. We do not sell online as we prefer to offer a personal service and allow our customers to touch, push, and try the prams and car seats in their car prior to purchase, but we realized we needed to quickly adapt the way we operated. This was an area where Lottie excelled and was fortunately available to help with the technology side, and soon enough, we were fully booked for Zoom consultations and doorstep collections. We really appreciated all the support we received from our suppliers, but especially from our area representative and the rest of the team at iCandy.

 

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 welcome customers into our store like it’s our home. We work hard to ensure the brands we stock reflect the service and quality we expect from our customers. Good old-fashioned word of mouth and Google reviews have been our saving grace so far. We have decided that we just cannot compete with ‘the big box-shifting one-liners,’ and that is more than okay as it is a different shopping experience. We are focusing on building our brand locally and are extremely grateful to our past and present customers for helping us do that. We also put a lot of effort into our social media presence. We have built up our following organically and are really pleased to see positive results as we have noticed we are getting more customers via Instagram.

 

What does it mean to you as a retailer to be an iCandy Brand Ambassador?

 

It is great that our dedication and expertise are recognised by such a fabulous, iconic brand; our whole team is immensely proud. We take a lot of pride in ensuring all our customers are happy with our before and after-sales service and how we operate as a business.

 

Do you feel that your customers research products before making a purchase?

 

We get a 50/50 mix. Some customers come into the store having done next to no research (or have started and realised it’s a minefield), and others have spent day and night, subscribed to Which? and looked online to try and narrow down what they like. There is so much information out there. However, once in-store, the personal service we offer and the opportunity to talk to someone who points out pros/cons normally get them buying something totally different from what they were considering!

 

Is there a must-have product for your customers at the moment? The majority of our customers come in looking for a travel system bundle with matching accessories. We feel the new iCandy Accessory Bundles are ideal for us to be able to fulfil our customers' needs, and now with the option of the NEW iCandy Cocoon baby car seat, it's a deal-breaker!

 

When buying for your store, what features stand out to you within a pushchair? We always think about where we are geographically placed. Our customers have different needs from customers who live in the middle of Birmingham or London. Therefore, we look for good suspension due to our urban/rural environment as well as the ease and compactness of the pushchair’s fold, as the majority of our customers will put their stroller in and out of the boot on a daily basis. If the carrycot is suitable for overnight sleeping, it's an added bonus.

 

What is your pushchair trend forecast for the next year in terms of design features and functionality?

 

A lightweight terrain stroller with a one-hand fold is always going to be a winner. Everyone’s pennies are being stretched further and further, so a purchase that can last and be used in a multiple of ways is ideal. I feel, in addition to the overnight sleeping carrycot, a carrycot stand is a real winner. In terms of colourways and fashion, high-end celebrity collaborations are always popular. We have seen that this summer with the Biscotti/Molly Mae launch. This has really switched the way customers view the lighter fabric colourway, a shade that many parents-to-be have avoided. This has brought out many more natural tones to the industry, which we welcome and is proving very popular.

 

Do you think parents have a greater focus on sustainability when it comes to their purchasing decisions?

 

We do find customers are really taking notice of buying more sustainably. Projects such as tree planting, using recycled materials, and being built in the UK are something to be proud of when talking to other expectant parents about their purchase. iCandy’s 5-year warranty goes a long way to ensure the strollers aren’t ending up in landfill, and customers really do take notice of that.

 

 

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