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Our mothers loved Mothercare. The problem is that we did not...

PUBLISHED: 11:49 04 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:49 04 November 2019

Mothercare  has announced plans to put its UK retail business, which has 79 stores, into administration, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Mothercare has announced plans to put its UK retail business, which has 79 stores, into administration, putting hundreds of jobs at risk. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Much loved brand Mothercare is calling in the administrators. However, Liz Nice is not surprised...

It's sad that Mothercare is calling in the administrators, not least for the 2500 people whose jobs are now at risk.

Clearly, the writing has been on the wall for some time - 55 shops have closed already - and although the 79 remaining ones are to continue trading for the time being, the company has said its stores are 'not capable of returning to a level of structural profitability and returns that are sustainable for the group.'

Why companies insist on talking in this incomprehensible manner I don't know.

But I guess, then, it's up to me to say it like it is. (They mean, 'time's pretty much up').

We keep bemoaning the death of the high street but the real reason businesses fail is not because of some capricious Retail Grim Reaper stalking our towns, randomly taking down much loved companies for fun, but because certain stores and brands fail to move with the times. (Thomas Cook was one, and Marks and Spencer, where customers' constant refrain is 'I can never find anything I want any more' need to start listening to those customers pronto, if you ask me).

When I was a child, my mother and I were in Mothercare constantly, as Mum kept adding brothers to our fold.

This was partly because there was nowhere else to go for baby things, but also because Mothercare was the perfect brand for that time.

Even its name fitted 1970s Britain. Dadcare, at that time, was virtually non-existent. My dear father has never changed a nappy and, as he is now 82, I suspect he never will.

But by the time I had my own boys (we only do sons in our family; I'm the aberration as many will attest), fathers were much more involved so the more inclusively named Mamas and Papas seemed like the place to go instead.

In one particularly low moment pre birth of number one, I recall being in M&P's perfectly pastel environment (Mothercare was always quite stark by comparison), absolutely convinced that my life would not be complete until I had managed to acquire the matching laundry tidy for our ludicrously expensive layette.

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I can't tell you and I know for certain that it was never used.

However, although I have always deplored designer clothes and consumer overspending, when it came to my first child, I was swallowed up by the fear that, if I didn't have the 'right things', I would be letting my new son down.

Clearly, the baby market is highly lucrative because of this.

Prams are insanely expensive. Will it be a Silver Cross or a Bugaboo? Parent tie themselves up in knots over this stuff.

With child number two, I quickly realised that a basic buggy and a small bag for wipes and nappies is all you need.

But everyone falls for the mad baby buy with child number one so there should be a market for it.

The trouble for Mothercare of course was three pronged.

They no longer had a monopoly and began to seem outdated.

Those with a bit of money were going to the higher end stores.

And everyone else began to use e-bay and social media market places - particularly important as most new parents had less disposable income than they used to, with changes to tax credits over the past ten years.

I feel sad for Mothercare's staff and will mourn a brand that really meant something to me and my mother as a child, but, like Woolworth's, I fear they were (are) just too middle of the road, and not online-focused enough, to survive. They're not the only ones. Write and let me know who you think will be next?

liz.nice@archant.co.uk

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