It can be very easy to head online to buy your purchases, avoiding the actual, physical act of shopping altogether - after all, it can be much less stressful. But, when shopping for babies or small children it can be essential to see things 'in the flesh' before you spend your hard-earned money.
It's something that Kiddicare has recognised. If you're a parent, chances are you already know about this self-styled baby specialist company. Kiddicare started life as a website selling a wide variety of baby products and is now branching out into actual, physical stores across the country.
Its latest store is Kiddicare Lakeside in Essex and it's the largest Kiddicare store to date (there are currently four with other stores in Peterborough, Nottingham and the West Midlands). In fact, when my mother-in-law drove past it just before Christmas, she thought it was a distribution warehouse - it's that big!
My husband and I paid the store a visit just before Christmas with Sophia and Dexter in tow. We had been invited to take a look around the store and were looking forward to seeing what it had to offer. We very quickly discovered that the answer is...a lot.
The superstore is Kiddicare's third and is not just its biggest store, it's also Europe's biggest baby store - well, Essex does like to do things in style! It can be an over-used phrase but it really is a 'one-stop shop' for all things baby-related. I admit to feeling a touch of jealousy when I walked through its doors because there was nothing like this available when I was pregnant with either of my two children.
The store is packed to the gills with products - 3,800 to be precise. Need a pushchair? Kiddicare has practically every single type of buggy, all available for a test-drive. Looking for a car seat? They've got just about every type and stage imaginable.
With its origins as a website, I thought any Kiddicare store would be like a warehouse where you know before exactly what you want and travel to the store to pick it up without waiting (like a baby version of Argos I suppose). Although the there are shelves of products reaching right up to the ceiling, that's about as close to a type of warehouse feel as the store gets.
Yes, if you see something you like you can take it away with you there and then (providing you pay for it obviously!) but there is so much more. The store includes:
- A 'try before you buy' pushchair test track.
- Free wifi so you can browse the internet on your phone to assess whether the purchase you want to make is good value (Kiddicare say that if you find the same product on sale for less money elsewhere, they will refund you 25% of the difference).
- Touch-screen 'Browse & Order' points to quickly order the products you want.
- A complimentary Baby Gift List service.
- The V.i.B. (Very Important Baby) free personal shopping service.
- 'Try before you buy' with car seats as well as free car seat fitting and safety checking for all
In addition to all of that for parents-to-be, Kiddicare appear to have put real thought into making a shopping trip much easier for parents with a baby or small child. A large cafe with secure play area is a real bonus for when your little ones get tired or bored; there's an area where you can feed your baby privately; there's a dedicated baby change facility; and the toilets are geared towards toddlers with little mini toilets sitting proudly next to the full-size ones in each cubicle. There are also mini trolleys for children to push around, although both Sophia and Dexter thought it would be better as a buggy.
Although my children are a little older than the target child age of Kiddicare; the company prides itself on being a baby specialist so all the goods are aimed at parents with newborns (or who are expecting) and children up to about two-years-old or so. However, friends of ours are now beginning to start families of their own, making it an ideal place to visit for new baby/christening/first birthday gifts etc. And of course, I'm not ruling out the possibility of another child just yet.
Of course, you can never go shopping with small children and return home empty-handed. We came away with new Trunki's (which are proving to be very popular as ride-on toys at the moment) and a car seat for Sophia. When choosing the seat, all the staff were helpful. They weighed Sophia first of all to determine what stage of car seat she would need and then placed any seat we wanted to try out onto a dummy car seat in store. This meant Sophia could sit in it and see exactly how it would feel. She decided upon a Disney one and we ordered it via one of the 'Browse and Order' points, choosing for it to be delivered directly to our home (which it was, quickly and efficiently).
And if all that isn't enough for you, the Kiddicare’s Big Sale is now on, with up to 80% off hundreds of products. Baby bargain hunters, off you go!
Please note: I was invited to view the store and received a goody bag for doing so, but all purchases made on the day were paid-for by myself and my husband. All opinions in this review are, as always, 100% honest.