Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Babyworld

Magazine article Marketing

Brand Builders: Babyworld

Article excerpt

After a rocky start, this babycare brand now offers everything from expert counsel to cots and cribs.

A little more than 10 miles outside Oxford, babyworld's offices are surrounded by countryside. Situated on the land of a retired gentleman farmer, the soothing chimes of birdsong and the rustle of the wind in the trees are a far cry from the wails, ear-splitting screams and gurgles of babies.

That said, the focus of babyworld is soon apparent. The walls are adorned with stick-on transfers of cuddly bears, and the demo room, where consumers can get hands-on with products that are available through babyworld.co.uk's e-commerce site, is a veritable treasure trove of baby equipment.

Babyworld.co.uk offers parents practical information and support, including magazine-style articles on a diverse range of subjects and discussion forums for expectant mothers. It also provides a team of health professionals to answer queries, while parents can read and pen their own reviews of baby gear available through the site.

The shop-like product demo room has only been open to the public for a month, and to the current management team must serve as a reminder of the brand's tumultuous journey - babyworld once had an online store that was closed down by then-owner Freeserve .

Babyworld is now independent but its reincarnation comprises much of the former management involved in the sale to Freeserve in 1998, including Jon Buxton, one of the original managers, current co-owner, marketing, IT and design manager.

The babyworld idea was conceived in the late-90s by current chairman Chris Blake, who was the managing director of medical publisher Elsevier Science. Combining his observations of high-street stores selling baby products with his knowledge of the medical world, Blake realised there had to be a way to bring both elements together online.

Babyworld launched in 1998. Buxton knew Blake at Elsevier and joined in 1999, the same day as Tim Halfhead, the current managing director.

'The day I arrived Chris dragged Tim and I into the office and said someone was interested in buying us,' says Buxton.

Freeserve paid pounds 3.7m for the business in 1999. In 2001 it closed down the e-commerce site and all but one of the positions at babyworld were axed.

Yet from its seemingly imminent demise, babyworld was reborn. In January 2003 Halfhead and Buxton decided they were interested in buying babyworld and spent six months frantically putting together a plan and searching for financing. …

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