The baby transport and nursery furniture sector has redefined itself to an extent during the past decade (since the late 1990s), in response to some of the social and demographic factors that have been affecting the market. This has enabled the sector to maintain value; indeed, it showed steady growth between 2003 and 2007.
Both the feeding products and safety equipment subsectors have benefited from the trend for mothers to return to work when their children are under school age. For example, breastfeeding equipment (such as pumps, sterilisers and spare bottles) can help mothers to continue breastfeeding after their return to work, and many working parents of young children keep a separate set of feeding equipment at a childcare facility. Home safety equipment is required at the homes of childminders (who are now inspected by the Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted]), as well as being purchased by parents of young children.
Widespread media coverage of the dangers that may face babies in their homes has led to a growing demand for items such as stairgates and child safety locks, while the baby monitors sector has developed, at least partly, in response to a need to provide reassurance for parents in the light of findings on issues such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, more commonly known as `cot death').
The disposable nappies sector continues to be price-led, with heavy discounting and promotional activity meaning that the sector has struggled to maintain value, despite continual product developments and improvements from manufacturers. The sector has also had to respond to strong pressure from both the Government and consumers to minimise the effects of disposable nappies on the environment.
There was strong agreement that `breast is best' as far as infant feeding was concerned, with nearly three-quarters survey respondents agreeing that breastfeeding is much better for babies than bottle feeding. Nevertheless, nearly half held the view that it was possible for bottle feeding to be just as good as breastfeeding.
The sample was split on the question of whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding was easier for the parents. Overall, however, the survey results were slightly in favour of bottle feeding in this respect.
More than seven in ten respondents agreed that the wide range of baby equipment available could make it difficult for parents to decide which items they actually needed, and almost half complained that it was difficult to get unbiased advice about what sort of baby equipment to buy. Nearly three in ten said they wished they had done more research or had been better informed before buying equipment for their baby.
Endorsement for using second-hand baby equipment was high, with nearly seven in ten respondents saying that this was perfectly acceptable as long as safety considerations were met. The current economic climate (as at early November 2008) may well mean that more parents will rely on `passed-on' equipment in the near future.
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