As a small business owner and frequent blogger, Shannon Mary McLaughlin puts her blood, sweat and tears into her livelihood. She has become something of a local pioneer in Cape Town, after designing a set of custom-made baby carriers that make life easier for mothers and fathers alike. However, in her words, Woolworths “have some explaining to do”.
Her patented design – which caters to the sensitive stomachs of women post-pregnancy and comes with a uniquely-soft waistband for the baby’s comfort – has been delighting parents with its practical features and innovative touches. However, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. N
The retail giants are now selling a product which looks, feels and operates exactly like Shannon’s Ubuntu Baba creation. In a comprehensive blog post, the babywear specialist has teed off against Woolies for their “shameless stealing” of her product.
In fact, from the evidence presented by the complainant, it looks like Woolworths have indeed cannibalised the whole design. Not only that, but they’ve taken the “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” brands and made them their own – even manipulating Google Ad Words to ensure their version of the carrier pops up on a search before Ubuntu Baba does.
Shannon did a bit more investigating – going as far as to buy one of
Shannon lambasted the company for effectively outsourcing her work and dramatically slashing the prices, meaning that she was unable to compete with Woolworths in terms of what she could sell her own product for. However, the manufacturer has offered an olive branch to the store:
“Why would a big corporate go to such effort to try and copy my product and leverage off my marketing? This feels wrong on so many levels. They are selling the carriers for a third of the price that I sell mine – because of course they just have it made in China, while we manufacture ours locally in our little factory in Retreat.”
“For a company whose values include ‘helping local enterprises to grow, and contributing to a prosperous, secure future for our country’, Woolworths have some explaining to do. As a South African manufacturer, we’d be happy to work together with Woolworths and contribute to a ‘prosperous future’ by manufacturing a local baby carrier option on your behalf.”Shannon Mary McLaughlin
Another one of McLaughlin’s main concerns is that Woolworth appear to have printed the safety information incorrectly. They advise that you should carry a baby on your back for the first six months of its life, but the Ubuntu Baba official policy is to only carry children in that fashion when they are older than six months.
They also seem to have the weight guidelines wrong, too. Shannon is still pursuing her case with Woolies, in a desperate bid to gain the credit she deserves. We reached out to the store ourselves, but are yet to receive a reply. You can read the full extent of Shannon’s complaints here.