Woolworths Ubuntu Baba

On the left is Woolworths’ version of the baby carrier. On the right is the original Ubuntu Baba design.

Woolworths apologise to local businesswoman after “stealing” her idea

This was one instance where big business couldn’t get away with bullying “the little guy”. Shannon McLaughlin has come out on top in her battle with Woolworths.

Woolworths Ubuntu Baba

On the left is Woolworths’ version of the baby carrier. On the right is the original Ubuntu Baba design.

We’ve got a quick update from the saga involving designer Shannon McLaughlin and the retail giants Woolworths, as the national corporation has accepted accountability for “stealing” her product.

McLaughlin is a specialist in babywear and accessories. Her Ubuntu Baba baby carrier is unique due to the intricate waistband design and added comfort features for mothers with C-Section scars.

Woolworths statement apologises for Ubuntu Baba controversy

The manufacturer had recently discovered someone from Woolies’ head office bought one of her carriers in 2017, and they were then assembled in China and sold on for a fraction of their original price about a year later.

After meeting with McLaughlin on Wednesday, Woolworths issued the following statement via social media.

“We met with Ubuntu Baba today and have completed our investigation into the allegations of copying. While there are differences in our baby carrier, there are striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for. This is not in line with our values and goes against the very clear policy and creative guidelines we have in place for our design process.”

“This lapse in process is being addressed internally. We are intensifying and strengthening the training of our people, our suppliers and partners on our values-based approach to the design and sourcing process. We have sincerely apologised to Shannon personally and we would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to our customers who expect more from us.”

“We are removing this product from our stores and online. Customers who wish to return their product may do so for a full refund. We remain deeply committed to the development of small businesses in South Africa.”

Official Woolworths statement

Shannon McLaughlin stands her ground

It seems like quite a victory for the mother-come-businesswoman, who has successfully got the company to withdraw their knock-off version of the baby carriers from sale.

However, McLaughlin tweeted a response to Woolworths’ admission of guilt, promising to issue a statement later on Wednesday evening once she’s “thought it through”. Keep an eye out, because this show may just have an encore.