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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The Purpose of the Report

This report aims to direct Mothercare, to investigate ways in which they could improve one of their own branded, baby car seats. Once current market trends have been analysed along with the future predictions of the market, the report will assess the most efficient ways in which the product can be improved, in order to make it more aggressive within an already competitive market.

The Company

Mothercare is a leading, specialist retailer of products; for parents, babies and children up to the age of 8. Mothercare remains the largest player in the nursery and baby equipment market, with a total market share of 25% (Mintel, 2018). The Mothercare Maine Baby Car Seat (fig.1) currently sold for £120.00, is the product that will be analysed and researched in order to make appropriate recommendations for company to improve.

(Fig.1 Mothercare's Maine Baby Car Seat (Mothercare, 2018))

The Product and Consumer Benefits

 The Mothercare Maine baby car seat, retailing at £120.00 (Mothercare, 2018), is a lightweight, portable, rear facing car seat ideal for new born babies up to 12/15 months (or 13kg). The car seat is fully compliant with current UK car seat laws (GOV UK 2018). The deep padding and side impact protection it provides new mothers and fathers with the reassurance that their new born babies will arrive safely after car journeys.  Made with premium fabric to create a stylish finish, this car seat also has accessories such as the ‘isofix' base, allowing customers to click the car seat in and out of the vehicle without disturbance. In addition to this, the car seat consists of a 3 point harness, a removable, new-born body support cushion, chest and buckle pads ensuring maximum comfort and safety. The Table (fig.2), demonstrates the benefits customers receive from the following features when purchasing this product from Mothercare.

Features How they benefit

Weight At only 5.1kg this car seat is lightweight allowing for easy transportation and mobility in and out of the car or walking around.  

Product Guarantee Customers are protected with up to two years guarantee. This means that Mothercare will offer a spare, repair or replacement product free of charge where the car seat goes wrong within the first two years of the guarantee validation date.  (Mothercare, 2018)

Side impact protection The addition of side impact protection ensures new mothers and fathers that their new-born babies are more protected in case of an accident.

Weight range suitability and harness type This car seat accommodates children from birth to up to 13kg, ideal for children up to 12/15 months. According to the UK law on car seats, children must be rear facing until the are 15 months old (GOV UK 2018) , making this a perfect first car seat.

ISOFIX base The ISOFIX base allows parents to easily fix their child's car seat into the car without disturbance as well as ensuring parents that it is correctly positioned in every journey. The ISOFIX base also means that the car seat is compatible with many pushchairs, leaving customers open to choice.

Washable Covers The importance of washable covers to a car seat is imperative to new parents to ensure that any spillages or dirt can be removed.

Cushioning This car seat comes complete with a new-born support cushion as well as chest and buckle pads for added comfort.

(Fig.2 What are the benefits that the customer derives from owning this product?)

The UK Market

The Nursery and Baby Equipment market

The UK market for nursery and baby equipment achieved an annual growth of 3.7% reaching £932 million in 2017. (Mintel, 2018) However, growth of the market has slowed from 2015 and 2016, yet the reason for particularly large growth in 2015 was due to the introduction of new car seat legislation. The current forecast for the UK and baby market is £973 million in 2018, £1.01 billion by 2019, £1.043 billion by 2020 and £1.073 billion by 2021.

The UK Car Seat Market

Currently, car seats take up 19% of the market of Nursery and Baby Equipment (fig.3), with the total Market size for car seats standing at a total of £177.1million (Mintel, 2018). The market can be segmented into 4 main sectors, into products including baby car seats, combination car seats, booster seats and convertible car seats. The UK baby car seat market is fragmented since the market has several main companies that offer various products within each of the sectors.  Due to an increase in the legislation of car seat laws, I would expect the market to expand in a similar fashion to the Nursery and baby equipment market within the next three years.

Fig.3 represents the the % that car seats take up in the Nursery and Baby Equipment industry

The graph below (fig.4) represents the rate of growth of the market by sector. The transport section in the baby care market grew by 5%, the third highest sector after bathing and linen, and this is aligned with the statistics that car seat legislations in 2015 caused growth in the market. (Statista, July 2016).

(Fig.5 Percentage growth in the baby care market value in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2nd quarter 2015 to 2nd quarter 2016, by sector (Statista, July 2016))

Main Substitutes Offered by Competitors

Mothercare currently controls 25% of the market and remains to be the leading specialist within the Nursery and baby equipment industry. Yet other competitors provide products that offer substitutes to their car seat mentioned in this report.

Available from Argos, the Red Kite Push Me, in Metro Grey (fig.6) (Argos, 2018) offers a similar variety of benefits that the Mothercare car seat can offer. Standing at just £64.99, this pushchair is a lightweight stroller able to use from birth until toddler age, similar to the Maine car seat.  It also offers a sleek and efficient pushchair base, allowing parents to use a one hand fold action, allowing for practicality and simplicity. A ‘bumper bar' around the front gives added security and safety. However, this product also features a deep shopping basket and a rain cover as standard, making it

 a competitive substitute compared to the car seat.

(Fig.6 Red Kite Push Me, Metro Grey (Argos, 2018))

Available from Amazon, the Baby Wrap Baby Carrier by Cuddlebug (fig.7)  stands at just £28.95. Offering a warm, womb like environment for babies, wearing the baby in a chest carrier makes them happier and provides a stress-free environment. Also helping to create a stronger bond between

(Fig.7 CuddleBug Baby Wrap Carrier (Amazon, 2018))

mother and baby, the CuddleBug baby wrap is designed to give the baby a sense of familiarity and they are more able to hear, smell and experience the same environment as the mother, enabling the baby to feel safe. This baby wrap is multipurpose, also freeing both hands and great for new borns.

The Cybex Mios Carrycot (fig.8), in grey currently retails with John Lewis at £200.00. (John Lewis, 2018). A little more expensive, this product claims to offer the ultimate safety and comfort for your baby, with an ergonomically correct flat-lying position. Not only thanks to the extra soft, memory foam mattress, the carrying handle with an integrated sun canopy makes it easier to transport the baby.

(Fig.8 The Cybex Mios Carrycot (John Lewis, 2018))

External Environment

Legal- Safety and Legislation

Concerns regarding child safety and the reduction of infant deaths caused by driving is one of the main factors affecting the market and this is a prominent issue at the moment and will continue to affect the market within the next three years. There has been a surge in the number of regulations and implemented laws within the UK which have been introduced to reduce fatalities associated with car crashes, and these measures have significantly reduced the death of babies due to accidents.

Manufacturers have to alter designs and make improvements in order to comply with these new regulations that are constantly being introduced. In 2015, new legislation regarding car seats came into effect, making car seats simpler to fit into vehicles, thus reducing the chance of fatality. When this legislation was introduced, the new ‘i-Size' compatible baby seats had to be purchased alongside a more expensive car seat base, which saw growth within the category. However now more models are being introduced for more price sensitive parents, slowing growth within the category. (Mintel, 2018)

Due to increased market competition, baby car seat manufacturers are now launching products with additional features that not only ensure a high degree of safety but also an increased level of comfort. Advances in technology have resulted in the development of highly sophisticated and comfortable baby car seats, resulting in increased sales and overall growth of the baby car seat market.

Social Trends- The rise of Social Media and influence of online forums

With the rise of social media, parenting vloggers, bloggers and Instagram stars, have a greater influence on consumers, due to their online presence and image of a ‘perfect life'. In recent years, more and more parents have started using social media and could therefore be influenced by the huge number of ‘parent vloggers' seen online today. Data suggests that parents with children aged 5 and under are more likely to use social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. (Mintel, 2017).

Parents are becoming more dependent on the internet as a source of parenting information, with almost two thirds (64%) of parents who have children aged 0-4, trust online forums or social media for parenting information. In the graph below (fig.9), we can see that 55% of women would choose to rely on forums such as mumsnet, as well as 45% of all parents. It has been reported that mothers are

(fig.9 588 internet users 18+ who have a biological child aged under 5 and under, or who are currently expecting/trying to conceive a child)

more likely to go online for advice than fathers, with 68% of women trusting parental forums for recommendations. The rise of social media and influence of forums and bloggers has lead to an expansion in the audience of the market, causing growth within the market for baby sales. Particularly within the next three years, social media and forums will have large impact on sales within the market as social media prominence is constantly growing.

Real Wages are falling and Uncertainty of Brexit

Consumers are having to start saving and stop spending when it comes to certain purchases as there has been a decrease on consumers spending power as UK inflation has risen above wage growth, particularly since the EU referendum. This was seen over the course of 2017 and can be seen in the graph below (fig.10) that the % year on year change in inflation is higher than the % year on year change of average weekly earnings.  As real wages continue to fall, this will affect the nursery and baby equipment market as parents are having to source products from elsewhere and purchase cheaper essentials. Many parents are also relying on the second-hand market for nursery and baby equipment. Not only have real wages fallen, the fears and uncertainty over the impact of Brexit will not have a positive impact on the market. The fall in the value of Sterling has led to an increase in the cost of goods imported to the UK, and this will particularly affect the market as many baby products are imported from abroad. (Mintel, 2018) With the uncertainty of Brexit and consumers willing to spend less, due to a decrease in the value of sterling, the market will be negatively affected.

(fig.10 Average weekly earnings (total pay) vs Inflation from Jan 16 to Nov 17)(Mintel, 2018)

Improvement Recommendations

Increased Safety Features

As previously discussed, safety is one of the main features affecting the market for car seats and therefore Mothercare should make appropriate improvements to their products in order to make their product more aggressive in an already competitive market.  The Maine Car seat available from Mothercare, whilst offering many safety conscious features, does not offer some of the latest available technology for ensuring maximum protection.

Other car seat giants such as ‘Maxi-Cosi', are the first company to have used technology such as airbags within their products. In case of severe accident, airbags are stored within padded straps and are activated by sensors in the isofix base. Maxi-Cosi claim that the new technology will ‘reduce up to 55% of the forces acting on the neck, vertebrae and the head'. (Mintel 2018) Again, increasing the level of safety within Mothercare's car seats could seem profitable as almost three quarters of parents (73%) are willing to spend more on a product that has passed rigorous safety tests. (Mintel, 2018). This indicates that an increase in the level of safety features leads to added value to the product in which Mothercare can charge more. An increase in technologically advanced products according to a senior analyst at Technavio for retail goods and services research, “Increased child-safety concerns and the increase in demand for technologically advanced products has increased the scope for product innovation. The availability of new, innovative products in the market directly impacts the sale of baby car seats. Subsequently, contributing to the growth of the global baby car seat market”. (Business Wire, 2018).

Innovation to the Mothercare Maine Car seat is essential as new models of car seats are also allowing parents to test the correct safety belt tension while driving and are also equipped with an acoustic indicator and a light display, eliminating parental fears around safety. (Mintel, 2016) Mothercare could also provide the support of a car seat ‘leg'. This stops the child's car seat tipping over in case of collision. (Childcarseats.org.uk, 2018)

Improvements to Social Media Presence

Due to the expansion of advertising for baby products on social media platforms and through the prevalence parent bloggers, Mothercare should focus on their online strategy and their relationship with influential ‘mummy bloggers'.  The use of social media accounts, forums and blogs aimed at women, such as ‘Mumsnet' (which now has 12 million unique users per month)(Mintel, 2018), ‘Netmums' and the many influential ‘mummy bloggers' could provide useful to Mothercare's online strategy, as many brands and retailers choose to use social media and forums to promote their products.  The current trend amongst the  popularity of blogs and online forums aimed at mums, means that Mothercare should aim to make improvements to their social media usage and to get the bloggers and forums in support of their product in order to reach a wider audience. Mothercare should ensure that they have a large presence on social media, through the sponsorship of bloggers or celebrities with children their age as this would help to reach a larger audience and increase awareness around Mothercare products.

The table below (fig.11) demonstrates the expected benefit from making improvements

Recommended Improvement Expected Benefit

Increased Safety such as, Airbags stored within padded straps. The added ability to test the correct safety belt tension while driving and also additional acoustic indicator and light display. Parents can be more assured that their children will be protected in case of accident. This is vital to new born babies who do not have the strength to support their own heads. The addition of being able to test the correct safety belt tensions give parents the reassurance that their child's car seat is safely installed in the car at all times. The acoustic indicator and light display would allow parents to constantly check on their child's safety whilst driving. Increased safety measures within the car seat makes Mothercare more competitive with other car seat competitors such as Maxi-Cosi and other brands that are using more modern technology. The addition of these safety features adds value to the product as parents are more willing to pay for safer products.

Improved social media strategy and online presence. The sponsorship of famous bloggers or parents would help to reach a large target audience and increase sales. Particular focus should be paid to forum sites where parents often go to for advice.

Parents will find it easier to access product information online and from people who they ‘trust'. Promotion of products by influencers can give honest reviews to parents who use online forums or social media. More improvements to their online strategy will help to make Mothercare more of a threat to brands like Mamas and Papas who already offer sponsorship to influencers.

(fig.11 Recommended improvements and expected benefit)

Customer-based Marketing Research

In order to improve Mothercare's Maine baby car seat, some primary customer-based market research needs to be carried out in order to answer how the product can be improved whilst focusing on certain themes. I have chosen to focus on the relationship between price and safety involving car seats.

The most appropriate method for this market-based research is the use of the focus group. A focus group is an effective way to collect in depth, qualitative information to answer the question.

Qualitative information utilizes open-ended questions to obtain in-depth answers. (Fnbil.com, 2018)

Focus groups also enable more information to come to light because the participants feel more at ease in a familiar group setting rather than in a more formal interview process. The main purpose is to provide data to enhance, change or create a product or service targeted at a key customer group. (Infoentrepreneurs.org, 2018) In order to select a focus group, an antenatal baby group would be approached. A sample size of 10-12 would be suggested.

Participants will then be randomly selected from this group, ensuring that they all have a child between the ages of 2-12 months and have purchased a car seat at some point, as to allow for accurate data to be collected. This is to ensure that they have a baby that is old enough that will have used a car seat but is still within the age range to use a rear facing car seat, the product that the report has been focusing on.  

The purpose of this focus group is to find out whether parents are willing to spend more money on a car seat that has the highest level of technology in order to improve the overall level of safety.  Follow up questions will be used in order to collect data in the session, in which it will all be recorded and afterwards transcribed. These questions allow for inductive thematic analysis to be used in order to bring up predominant  themes, and to then make suggestions about improvements towards the overall safety of car seats once the content of the focus group has been analysed.

The questions that the focus group will be asked are as follows:

1. Would you be willing to pay more for a car seat that has an ‘isofix' base in order to ensure maximum safety when fixing the car seat into a vehicle?

2. Would you be willing to pay more for a car seat that has airbags installed into the side protection?

3. Are there any other features that you would like to see added to a car seat to make it safer? For example, an acoustic indicator/light display or the ability to check the seatbelt tension of the car seat whilst driving.

4. Is there anything that you think could be improved to car seats in general to make them safer?

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