How baby products firm Bababing has forged ties with big retailers including John Lewis

Designed by parents for parents, Bababing’s unique range of functional and innovative children’s products continue to fly off the shelves in major UK retailers including John Lewis, Boots, Waitrose, and JoJo Maman Bébé. Brothers Jamie and Ashley Robinson talk to Andrew Vaux.

When brothers Jamie (47) and Nick (45) Robinson became parents, they didn’t want to stop their active lifestyles.

Learning from their own experiences, they recognised a demand for well-designed, portable, and functional child and parent-friendly equipment.

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And so, based on designs developed by younger brother Ashley (42) during his university degree, the trio launched Bababing.

Left to right: brothers Nick, Jamie and Ashley RobinsonLeft to right: brothers Nick, Jamie and Ashley Robinson
Left to right: brothers Nick, Jamie and Ashley Robinson

18 years on, Bababing’s products are stocked in over 700 stores from the nation’s largest retailers such as John Lewis, Boots, Waitrose, and JoJo Maman Bébé.

Having turned over £750,000 in 2021, the brand has doubled takings this year to £1.5m and is set to break the £2m barrier within the next 12 months. Joining industry-leading brands like BMW, Philips and Bose, the Keighley-based children’s product manufacturer has also recently won the prestigious Red Dot Design Concept Award 2022 for its brand-new hybrid side sleeper and travel crib.

Jamie remembers the ethos of what the siblings wanted to create.

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He comments: “Our mission was to create baby products that look good and work great, at common-sense prices.

“We didn’t want to stop being ourselves when we had kids, so we decided to make baby gear that helps you stay you - do-it-all buggies, foldaway bouncers, go-anywhere change bags, and more.

“In essence, simple essential kit that keeps freedom alive, even when you’re juggling two bags and a baby on three hours’ sleep. Let’s get out there, get muddy and get stuck in. Fun doesn’t stop when you have kids. It’s just the start!”

Ashley remembers: “In 1999, as part of my Product Design course at Derby University, I did a placement with Mamas and Papas and designed, on paper, a bag for parents to carry all their children’s bits and pieces in. I created lots of posters and presentations to display and describe my work to my university tutors.

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“After university, I secured a job with Mamas and Papas and continued with product design.

“Then I remember one day we found all my university documents folded up and stored away underneath the bed in our family home. Jamie and Nick said why don’t we do something with these? With my product design background, Nick a design engineer in a precision engineering company and Jamie involved in sales, we knew we had the wealth of experience between us to launch a business.”

He continues: “In the early days we worked from my bedroom. Deliveries would turn up in large containers on our driveway and we’d have to find room for storage nearby.

“We had very basic IT equipment, connecting to the internet via a dial-up modem through the telephone line."

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In the beginning, the brothers decided to focus on bags and began with a single product – a practical, unisex changing bag. True to the edict “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” Jamie used a buyer contact of his from John Lewis to introduce a sample. The company saw the immense value of the product and decided to launch it within its stores – within 24 hours, the range had sold out.

Jamie secured similar meetings with product buyers at Mothercare, and orders started to flow soon afterwards.

With all products designed in-house at the Keighley HQ and manufactured and shipped from India and the Far East to remain competitive, the range has expanded to include baby bouncers, rockers, car seats and travel systems, with the hybrid crib the most recent addition to the award-winning range.

Jamie explains why he believes the Bababing range remains so popular.

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He says: “Quite simply, we provide great designs at an affordable price. At the end of the day, product is king, and we ensure there are absolutely no compromises. We focus on parents and fully understand their issues and pain points so we can ensure our products have all the functions they need.

“Many manufacturers will have a tagline on their products along the lines of making lives easier. We believe that this can sometimes be simply a ‘tick box’ exercise whereas we’re proud to be able to say that our products are genuinely designed to make life easier.”

He continues: “We also pride ourselves on our relationships with suppliers. People buy from people. Unlike some companies who have a ‘scatter gun’ approach to try and get their products into as many retailers as possible, we’d rather work with a chosen few, build a relationship with them and provide a first-class professional support and service, for example providing point-of-sale materials to help enhance the products’ in-store presence.”

The prestigious Red Dot Design Concept Award invites designers, design studios, companies, and universities to challenge the status quo and present their most exciting design concepts and prototypes to an international panel of design experts.

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The Red Dot is a recognised international seal for excellence in design innovation. Winning a Red Dot is a highly effective way to communicate design, innovation, and leadership, and increase brand value.

Bababing’s crib, which has been celebrated for its unique and compact design, uniquely features no dismantling parts and a simple one-motion fold. It features a soft and airy mattress; five adjustable heights for bedside compatibility; and a tilted, position for uninterrupted sleep, at home or away.

Jamie is comfortable with the position Bababing has secured in the market and believes its rationale of working with carefully selected retailers will be key to securing its future growth.

He concludes: “Some of the big players in the industry wield undue influence over some retailers. This makes things harder for the retailers and puts them in a difficult position, whilst also making it near impossible for smaller brands to compete.”

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“It’s really important for us to work closely with our stockists for a mutual partnership that helps achieve everyone’s objectives and growth. We could definitely be in more places, but we’re very discerning when choosing who to partner with .”

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