A Look at the UK Market

A Nursery Year In Numbers

as published by GfK in February 2020 Progressive Preschool

In 2019, the total babycare market in Great Britain was down by 4% compared to last year. In the face of Brexit and pre-election uncertainty, consumers were clearly in a wait and see mode. The clear result of the general election is potentially an opportunity to move us out of the doldrums.

In November 2019, the consumer confidence index flatlined at -14 points. At this point we have not seen a positive headline since January 2016, nearly 4 years ago. Uncertainty is nobody's friend and we've seen this dynamic reflected across most of the durable markets this year, despite quite a strong Black Friday week when sales were up by 16% compared to 2018, with online sales growing by over 33% .

In fact, online transactions have outperformed in-store sales across all babycare markets and now account for 40% of the total market value compared to 37% last year. This growth in online sales amounts to a £10m increase, while in-store sales have declined by £35m, a harsh sign of a struggling retail landscape.

The categories with the greatest declines in the total market are highchairs (down by 9%), monitors (down by 8%) and strollers (down by 6%), all potentially driven by a suspected increase in the second- hand market as consumers look to tighten their belts.

It isn't all doom and gloom though, the combined soothers and teethers market is nearly flat year-on-year, while the breastfeeding market and bottle warmers and sterilisers sector both show strong growth of 2% and 6% respectively. For the nursery sector, strollers is by far the biggest category and it's worth 40% of the total babycare market. In the period across January to November 2019, sales in the category were down by 3.7% in volume, with 982,000 units sold. This decline has been common to both main segments - travel system pushchairs lost 3.6% in volume, while the buggy segment saw a 3% drop.

Within travel systems, the higher end of the market is struggling, showing a double-digit decline on models sold with an average selling price between £400 and £800. Sales above £800 are achieving growth but remain a relatively small proportion of the market (5% of total sales). The average selling price for travel systems is now £369 compared to £380 last year.

In the buggy sector,  the average selling price remained stable at £86 with the sector accounting for almost half of total pushchair sales by volume (48%) .

According to recent news, the retail landscape is likely to evolve in the near future and both specialists and non-specialist baby care shops will need to focus on catching the consumers demand.

Today's customers have more choices, and also more power over the brands they interact with, than ever before. it is no longer enough to simply provide a high-quality product you will also need to be competitive and to be able to deliver an excellent customer experience.

We are grateful to GfK for this research.