Three buyers reveal their five top retail tips for mum-owned businesses

Love to know the secret of getting your products in front of (and bought by) buyers at large retailers? Read five retail tips specifically for mum-owned businesses.

It’s likely that you know one, have heard of one, or possibly are one: mumpreneurs, parentpreneurs, mumlancers, magicians! Whatever you like to call them – entrepreneurial mums contribute more than £7 billion to the UK economy, and are on the rise.

A work-life balance, childcare costs, the desire to be your own boss and flexibility are just some of the reasons that three in five mums want to work for themselves, according to Direct Line.

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Yet, the latest report from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM)*** suggests that we’re lagging behind:

“Europe reports the lowest female involvement in early-stage entrepreneurial activity (6%) as well as the lowest gender parity – women in this region are only half as likely to be engaged in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity as their male counterparts.”

Five golden retail tips for mum-owned businesses

With retail listed as one of the most successful industries for mumpreneurs, we speak to three influential buyers for their five golden retail tips:

  • Harriet Blanchet (HB) – Buying Director, Jo Jo Maman Bebe; which has more than 80 stores around the country.
  • Beth Clifton (BC) – Senior Buyer, AlexandAlexa.com; leading children’s stylish online boutique.
  • Hollie Taylor (HT) – Buying Manager in Beauty & Baby, Ocado; the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer.
  • And a spokesperson for Boots UK Buying Manager (Boots).

1) Establish a need 

It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of becoming the next Levi Roots, but the reality is that there must be a need for your product. Can you detach your emotions and look at your product objectively, do you know it’s USP?

HB: “Products need to be easy to use, well made and offer value for money. Buying decisions are based much more on how people live, how much space they’ve got at home and good design.”

BC: “Know your stuff! Who is your target consumer? Competitors? ASP? USP?”

2) It’s all in the prep

Benjamin Franklin famously said; “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. But how can you plan ahead when you don’t know what to plan for?

HB: “If you are serious about bringing a product to market you have to realise it will probably cost tens of thousands of pounds and on top of that a great deal of your time.

When you find a factory you have to be in constant touch with them to ensure they are understanding and following your instructions – you cannot assume anything. Just because you have a clear vision of what you want, it doesn’t follow that the factory always understands that vision too.”

3) Be parenterprising

See and be seen they say. But just how important is it to be discovered and where should you have a presence? The experts say trade shows are a great way to burst into the scene.

Boots: “Consumer baby shows are a great way to get your product seen by a wider audience. Don’t be afraid to make direct contact with buyers at large retailers, be prepared with a concise overview of your product/brand offering and unique selling points – this is effective as a power point presentation via email to establish contact. All of the trusted brands in the market would have been unknown at some point.”

BC: “We visit key trade shows, for example Pitti Bimbo and Playtime Paris. Every day we get sent information from brands which we view and if relevant we get back in touch. Instagram has played a big part when searching for new exciting brands. Word of mouth and my mummy friends have also helped.”

HB: “Going to a trade fair in China that focuses on children’s products and talking to as many factories that are there who make similar items is probably a good starting point.”

4) Know what you stand for

Fans of The Apprentice will appreciate the highs and lows of pitching to a retailer. However, when the time comes to take your product to market, what’s really important?

BC: “A lot of new brands think they are doing something different but when you attend trade shows everyone looks the same. Make sure you bring something innovative to the market.”

Boots: “There are a number of ways new products stand out to get the attention of our buying team; this can include unique designs/features, true product innovation, product endorsements or awards, strong social following and/or support from key influencers in the baby and child market.”

HT: “Have a strong unique selling point (USP). With competition ever increasing, doing something different to make the brand and product stand out among others is a must.”

5) Don’t be afraid to reach out

It’s refreshing to know that both small and big businesses alike welcome new products and champion mumpreneurs.

HT: “The concept of parentpreneurs is a really interesting one and we’ve been working with a few recently at Ocado, including Sassy Bloom and From Babies with Love. Childs Farm, currently one of our largest suppliers, also started out this way, so we’re certainly keen to support parentpreneurs where we can.”

BC: “Get in touch directly. We always view emails that have been sent to us and if we are interested will make contact. Exhibit at trade shows. It’s key to build up social channels.”

Sophia Walker is the editor of leading parent blog – MilkDrunkDiary.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @milkdrunkdiary.