Who Cares, Mother?
Following on from my eyebrow-raising 18-30 blog, here I have been pondering the slow demise of 50-something brand Mothercare, a demise that is slower than expected in my book.
I think where 18-30 could have got it right, Mothercare have simply got it wrong and should have made a radical change to the brand over 20 years ago. Or at least started thinking in those terms. On this occasion the name is wrong and the world has moved on too quickly.
What do you do with a brand that feels so out of date? Or is it just me being sensitive? I remember feeling this way over 20 years ago when my daughter Morgan was born, and as I re-entered the world of being a father some six years ago the feeling is stronger.
In these modern times of #metoo campaigns and households with two mums, or two dads, or single mums or single dads, can Mothercare honestly survive? Who is really going to shop at Mothercare? It feels to me like a label that most women do not want. When I say label, I don’t mean being a mother, just the essence of placing the emphasis of care on the mother feels a little wrong to me.
Maybe I am treading the board of equality incorrectly here and not seeing the point. Will my thoughts be preceded by a barrage of angry mothers labelling me as a sexist bastard? I genuinely hope not. Mothercare to me, in this day and age, feels like a gym calling itself Strongman or even worse Toughguys. Surely we are surely beyond this now?
In the case of the household of two mothers, who cares? And in the two-father household, does no-one care, and is this a poke in the eye?
I thought I would test the theory by asking good friend and ex-Designator, Fi Lomas. Fi has a wife and a son. In her words,
“I have to admit that when we first became parents we went into Mothercare to buy a buggy. It was a bit of a weird experience as it’s so very dated in there, it was like stepping back in time. And there’s always the assumption that only one of you is the mother — and the rather shocked look when you explain that both of you are! And as for dads… double or single — what’s their part to play in this journey? Even as a double-mother household it feels wrong.”
Fi then offered up Domingo, a father of three in a two-father household.
“Never thought anything of the title till I became a parent. Then 14 years ago, I boycotted the store as it was hardly a representation of my core values, a father or parent who strives to create a family by any other means does not care. Dated, not very inclusive, expensive and the title is most irritating.
I had gift vouchers in the past as the kids arrived, or for birthdays and occasional Christmas gifts, I was simply resolute not to enter the store and passed them on grudgingly to other friends with children.”
So what of the nuclear family? Our very own working mum Miriam Boote, says,
“Mothercare is as old-fashioned a concept as the choice of brands it stocks. I remember shopping in the Colchester branch with my own mother in the 1980s. Visiting the Brighton store after my own son was born with a hopeful sense of nostalgia, I found it woefully out of touch with the worlds and brands my NCT friends were living and left empty handed.”
Being a parent is certainly not a lifestyle, but lifestyle brands know how to speak to parents and with Mothercare’s inability to meet the demands of this increasingly diverse lifestage, there is very little identification for modern millennial parent with what was once an iconic brand.
My story has now been enhanced by House of Fraser’s recent store closure news. Yet still the press seem to be throwing the subject at the demise of retail. In the case of Mothercare, I am not hearing much in the press about the lack of brand vision. People are having more children, not less, and without looking into the stats, I am guessing that they are buying more too. I think Boots has done the job for families and maybe booted out Mothercare in the process.
The story here again is that you have to look after your brand like it were your own child. Think about its future, give it life and give it a reason to live and let it develop its own personality.
How ironic. But what do I care, I’m not a mother.