Retail Spotlight Series
In our latest Spotlight on Retail, we were very lucky to speak with Nathan Williams, the COO of Mamas & Papas about the changes they made to service their customers with that ‘in person’ retail experience whilst living in a digital only world.
Please give a brief introduction to yourself and Mamas & Papas
“Hi, I’m Nathan Williams and I’m the Chief Operating Officer of Mamas & Papas. We are a UK based Global nursery brand and manufacturer supplying all things from pushchairs to nursery furniture, baby equipment and soft goods. 2021 is our 40th year so a significant milestone in the history of the business.
I’ve been with the business for the three years and it’s been quite a journey, with the last 12 months in particular contributing significantly to that. I would say at Mamas and Papas we are fortunate that in this current climate we live in a retail sector where we’re very much a ‘need product’ versus a ‘want product.’
“we’ve ridden the storm well and are very much looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming our customers in again”
So, while this has been a very challenging year for retail – we’ve ridden the storm well and are very much looking forward to opening our doors and welcoming our customers in again on the 12th April.”
How are you preparing for shops reopening on the 12th April?
“We’ve had a few attempts at it should I say, so reopening isn’t new from where we’ve been before, but what we’ve certainly done, whether it’s for the 12th of April or for each lockdown is taken the opportunity to actually accelerate some of the retail plans and investment in our physical space while the stores have been closed.
Bricks and mortar space is hugely important for us in nursery retail because when you’re investing a significant amount of money in a pushchair or car seats, you need the right advice and you want to be able to touch and feel the product. Therefore, continued improvement in this space is important.”
How much of a challenge was it when the stay at home mandates came into force last year?
“I don’t think anyone could say they were well equipped for it because it was such a seismic shift from anything that has ever happened before. COVID has really forced us all to look internally at our own agility and ability to adapt quickly to the external factors.
Obviously, everything transferred digitally which forces you to think 100% digital first across every function.
“COVID has really forced us all to look internally at our own agility and ability to adapt quickly to the external factor”
Very early on in the pandemic we asked ourselves the question, how can we service our customers with that ‘in person’ retail experience whilst living in a digital only world?
As a result, we were very quick to launch something with GoInstore where people could embark on their own virtual personal shopping experience from the comfort of their own home. We kept a handful of shops open for people to experience walking around the store with a shop assistant via a camera and this worked really well for us. To give you an example, an expectant couple could be sat in the comfort and safety of their own home on their computer, getting the same in store advice and product demonstrations which they traditionally would have received in the shop.”
That sounds really fantastic. How well was the technology received?
“The reaction was incredible and we had to increase our capacity really quickly to keep up with demand. Offering this service to our customers really showed how important it was for us to be there for our customers when they needed us the most. It became our main purpose to be able to provide the same level of service for our customers no matter whether shops are open or not.
Ultimately, we ended up carrying out as many weekly appointments virtually as we were doing when all shops were open and the customer feedback was really heart-warming.
“to provide the same level of service for our customers no matter whether shops are open or not”
People have been having babies no matter what’s going on and it’s therefore crucial that we are always there for them, not just in the transactional sense but also the emotional element no matter how challenging the journey may be.”
What are you anticipating for 2021?
“Well 2020 was a good year for us as a business where our Digital and IT teams re-platformed our website, our distribution / warehouse teams working throughout to make sure customers got their orders, Marketing driving our Social channels, Product teams navigating the forecasting, supplier and freight challenges and Retail teams managing the open / close merry go round. As a Leadership team we are incredibly proud of what our people have delivered through this pandemic.
“we are incredibly proud of what our people have delivered through this pandemic”
As we progress forward into 2021 and the country starts to unlock, the key to success will be adapting to how customers return to our shops – what is going to be the ‘new norm’ and how will the Digital and Physical worlds rebalance themselves? It is going to be really exciting to navigate through this journey and see how it all unfolds.
During this pandemic we’ve successfully turned the business around, steadied the ship so to speak, and now it’s all about growing the business. I have every confidence that this is going to be a very exciting 12 months for retail. We opened up more sites in 2020 and we will continue to build on our plans to expand geographically as well as push our Digital business even harder than ever before. The opportunity is there for us and we remain focused on maximising that opportunity.”
In the meantime, we wait patiently for the 12th of April to arrive and welcoming our customers back into our shops, our store colleagues back and building on what has been a very productive year for Mamas and Papas.”