Entrepreneur to benefit from sales of Woolies copycat baby carrier

08 February 2019 - 18:26
Woolworth. File photo.
Woolworth. File photo.
Image: Bruce Gorton

In the wake of Woolworths’ widely denounced copying of a Cape Town entrepreneur’s baby carrier, her company will be given some of the proceeds of the sale of those carriers.

And key Woolworths staffers and suppliers will be undergoing training on intellectual property issues "to avoid a similar incident in future", it was revealed in a joint statement released on Friday afternoon by Woolworths and Ubuntu Baba after the parties reached "a positive and amicable resolution".

Ubuntu Baba founder Shannon McLaughlin had accused Woolworths of blatantly copying her Stage 1 and Stage 2 baby carriers - their design, colour choice and even their names - then undercutting the price by two thirds by having them made of cheaper fabric in China.

She was in a bad place when she wrote her now famous "Woolworths, you have some explaining to do" blog in early January, fearing the loss of her business.

But two days later the retailer had apologised to her in person, pulled their "rip off" baby carriers from sale, and offered to refund those who’d bought one.

Friday’s statement said Woolworths would not be retaining any profits from the sale of its carriers - which bore what it termed "striking similarities" to those designed by Ubuntu Baba.

"We will donate a large portion of those proceeds to a credible institution with a view to educating, supporting and developing SMEs in South Africa," it said.

"The remaining proceeds will be paid to Ubuntu Baba."

Woolworths will donate its remaining baby carriers to parents in under-resourced communities.

And those parents won’t be given Woolworths’ instructions on how to fit them, as McLaughlin warned that they were ill-advised and would put babies in danger.

Woolworths said those concerns were "being resolved" by both Ubuntu Baba and "credible international experts" appointed by Woolworths.

In her initial blog, McLaughlin said that two separate Woolworths' employees had ordered her carriers online prior to the launch of Woolworths' carriers, suggesting that the intention was to copy them.

Friday's joint statement confirmed that the two employees in question were legitimate mothers-to-be, who worked for Woolworths but in completely unrelated departments.

"Both Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths are committed to ensuring that entrepreneurs and small businesses are uplifted and supported," the statement read.

"We hope that the learnings and positive outcomes of this incident will be used to drive continued SME development in South Africa.”