A usual task I carry out for my website is where we rank in google, how I can improve our SEO, how we can be more visible and near that all important top of the pile google search. So imagine my surprise when I saw NEXT are now selling a nursing cover almost identical to the one I sell; so similar that I in fact did a double take!
The crux of it all:
- Same design of product
- Same label placement and style (the script writing isn't even present on any other maternity items they stock)
- Same photography styling and angles
- A very similar leopard print (except no black in it)
- Undercut my price substantially
The actual image in question is so alike to my image visually and styling-wise, that it looks like it could have come straight off my website. It hurts that the image I have used is in fact one of me breastfeeding my baby at 8 weeks old, something very personal and what I wanted to portray through our brand the emotion behind the product created and where it was born out of. So for them to copy exactly this on a photo which has a lot of meaning, makes it feel belittled.
My lovely photographer Stories by Chloe is so talented! A small woman-led business also, and she puts so much emotion into the photos telling a story. You only have to look at her website to see how much she has crafted this for all brands she works with. Which is evident as you will see through all our imagery on the website, so for her too, this is devastating to see her own work copied and no decency to try and do something different.
I am a small business, you will see that from my followers on Instagram & Facebook and also that we have only been around 3 years. I have been growing this business tirelessly alongside my usual day job, raising a less than 1 year old (who is now 3), growing another human who was born last May and all whilst in a pandemic.
I feel both honoured and disappointed by this blatant copying. Honoured that they have come across my brand and clearly like the styling and our product The Chicago Loop (one I will add Next has never sold before!), but disappointed that they haven’t had any originality to introduce a new design which isn’t the same material, isn’t the same shape, the same label, a similar print, similar modelling. But worse - upset that now when new mamas search for a product I have poured my heart into for years off the back of my own challenges breastfeeding - that they will now see our products side by side, with Next’s being a whole £10 cheaper because they are a huge company who can mass produce and can afford to sell at that price.
I have a family to provide for, children in Nursery, no job to fall back on, a mortgage and a business which I want to grow and invest more in. So I can’t afford to sell our products any cheaper, and to be honest the quality of the product I think is amazing and reflects the price and is always one of the points we get in reviews too, which I am proud of! All our products are handmade in the UK by a small production business, who also is women led and trying to grow too, who also puts everything into ensuring the quality is perfect and checked before shipping and quite frankly is a big part of Bon + Bear too.
I guess Next saw a new category opportunity, a new way to capitalise on new mums, and haven’t had a 2nd thought on why a nursing cover is something personal to every mums feeding journey. Something which has the power to help new mums learn to breastfeed with some extra privacy, to boost their own confidence, to give them the support to feed wherever they want.
And probably didn't think a small business like us would be doing their due diligence.
Our nursing cover wasn’t ‘the first’ but it was different to anything else on the market; there was nothing that wasn't an apron style, a shawl, a car seat cover, a 5-in-1, a poncho, a huge swathe of fabric or a leopard print! I would know, I searched and searched for months and decided to make exactly what I would use, what I knew would work for modern Mamas who wanted to maintain their own style, to what our mission statement is: ‘to help at least one mama on their journey feel more like YOU’ (read more about our story here).
A product I personally trialled with my first baby, getting the width of the fabric just right so it covered but didn't swamp, sourcing something super-soft and crucially in a leopard print.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate we haven't invented the wheel here and I am aware we sell other products which other brands also make - muslins, baby wraps. But they are designed with our stamp on it; we haven't copied someones else's print, we have worked on a length/shape of wrap which we feel works better than others I tried with my first baby, the label/font is inspired off a market in Waco, Texas we went to over 5 years ago, and we only stock leopard prints because this is what we want to be known for. We have done the work to make Bon + Bear our vision, our unique take on these products to offer Mamas not only what they will need in the 4th trimester but a reason to buy from us and not a big company.
I get that this is what big brands do, they comp shop and copy elements of other products from competitors, designers go on 'inspiration' trips and then create collections from trends. But this is what it should be 'inspiration' to then if you must, go and do something different with your own stamp on it. Whether that's a unique print, a different fabric, a different shape, different styling, different photography... something original! So when a big brand so obviously copies a super small business not only for the product, but for the print offering and the visual element of the brands photography, it really does sting more and it is so typical of large brands to think they can get away with it and take more and more market share.
If they had come to me and said "we love your design, we would love to stock you" I would have jumped at the chance! I still would, so if you are reading this Next - contact me. I actually wholesale to another small mama-led business and feel so thankful when I do get contacted for opportunities. I even interned at next in their buying department 10 years ago, I started my buying career in that very company, I have bought endless baby clothes for my kids, maternity items for myself. But here I am feeling deflated that my business is now going to suffer against a giant like them.
Please support the smaller businesses (like mine) and buy your nursing cover from me, a mama that cares and has put a lot of effort into the design and production of the loop and other products available for sale at Bon + Bear.
Share, save and like this post as I would love to make sure Next see this and feel ashamed of what they have done.
MJ - Mama of 2 Bears & Founder of Bon + Bear