Rise in thefts of designer prams and pushchairs prompts Mothercare chief to say it would sell locks ‘if there’s demand’
Normally it is bicycles that are locked to the railings, but soon it could be buggies too after Mothercare said it is considering selling locks to counter a surge in thefts of designer prams and pushchairs.
Simon Calver, chief executive of the mother and baby retailer, said he was very concerned about a 23% rise in buggy theft over the past three years.
Calver said when he heard news about the surge in buggy theft last week he sent a memo to all stores ordering them to “make sure you don’t leave our products outside”.
He said the chain of 269 UK stores would start selling special locks for buggies, which can cost more than £1,000, “if there’s demand”. “It is a big ticket item, and we are having to help people with finance plans to buy them,” he added.
Police figures show reported buggy thefts have risen from 738 in 2009 to 913 last year. One in 14 parents with young children now say they have fallen victim to the crime, with the most targeted brands including Maclaren, Graco, Silver Cross, Chicco and Bugaboo.
The average cost for the most popular models is £427 but some top-of-the-range prams can cost in excess of £1,000, which is attracting thieves to enter the “buggy black market”, according to research by LV= home insurance. Calver’s comments came as Mothercare reported a 5.9% fall in UK sales in 13 weeks to 12 January. “[The figures] are in line with expectations,” Calver said. “But we can’t call negative figures positive. We know that it’s going to take us a bit of time to get the right range in store, and get the right web.”
Calver, who joined Mothercare from LoveFilm in April last year, admitted Mothercare has been “squeezed in the middle” as supermarkets beat it on price at the bottom end while luxury brands, such as The White Company, stole some of its high-end customers.
He said a new value range has done “incredibly well” and the company is “beginning to see more at the top end”. Mothercare has signed up Jamie Oliver’s wife Jools and singer Myleene Klass to design baby ranges.
Despite the drop in sales, Calver said Mothercare was on track to return to profit within three years. The company, which also owns the Early Learning Centre chain, has been scaling down its presence on the UK high street as part of its turnaround plan, and now has only 269 stores, compared with 311 last April.