A Look at the UK Market

Baby Care During Covid-19

as published by GfK in May/June 2020 Progressive Preschool

Almost all product markets have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another this year and baby-care is no exception, with the total category declining by 27% and 22% in value and volume, respectively (year-to-date). 2019 had already been a difficult year for the sector with ongoing economic uncertainty, negative consumer confidence and a shift toward second-hand buying; this year so far has only served to deepen these issues.

 

Baby-care’s YOY decline has accelerated through the year, with value growth for the quarter to May falling to 35% and April recording the sharpest drop of 47%. All baby-care categories have contributed to this decline with the exception of bottle warmers / sterilisers and baby monitors which achieved value uplifts of 23% and 13% respectively for the last three months.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the transport categories were the most negatively affected as the UK settled into lockdown. Value within the car seat and stroller markets fell sharply from March to May 2020 (by 49% and 48% respectively), as restrictions placed on leaving home affected first time buyers as well as those looking at replacing or upgrading existing models.

Although strollers will have been used more by parents during the lockdown, the steep recent value declines were seen across all main segments of the category. The three-in-one travel system category did see some volume growth however, thanks to an increase from <£200 models indicating that there is still some opportunity with quality models at a reasonable price point.

Sticking with more positive themes, baby monitors have seen a big swing in their performance in the last three months, with a 2% annual value decline turning into 13% growth. Wireless smart models drove this, with the sub-category growing 210% over the year to date period as a whole after a disappointing performance in 2019. Although partly led by price promotions, growth here is seen across various price points and brands.

The underlying trend of sales shifting from in store towards online is one we have seen for years but has been hugely accelerated through store closures in lockdown. The proportion of online value sales across the baby-care category has risen from 42% (January to May 2019) to 53% for the same period in 2020, reaching as high as 83% in April. In the case of premium categories such as car seats, strollers and highchairs this is perhaps unsurprising, but even for lower end categories there is a strong movement despite supermarkets remaining open. Over a quarter of all soothers and baby tableware items were bought online in April 2020, compared to less than 10% in the same month last year.

It's still too early to accurately predict the long term impact of COVID-19 on consumer shopping habits but the preference towards online buying looks set to continue in the short term, although that growth can't be relied upon to offset the steep drop in of in-store sales. 

We are grateful to GfK for this research.