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Woolworths recalls 'stolen' baby carrier design and apologises

09 January 2019 - 16:52 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Woolworths has has come under fire after accusations that it had copied the design of a locally manufactured baby carrier, Ubuntu Baba.
Woolworths has has come under fire after accusations that it had copied the design of a locally manufactured baby carrier, Ubuntu Baba.
Image: Supplied

Retail giant Woolworths has finally broken its silence over accusations that it had copied a locally manufactured baby carrier - and has decided to remove it from the store.

"We met with Ubuntu Baba today and have completed our investigation into the allegations of copying.

"While there are differences in our baby carrier, there are striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for," Woolworths said on Wednesday.

The retail giant came under fire after businesswoman Shannon McLaughlin set out in a blog post how her design was stolen and sold at a low price.

"Woolworths has shamelessly copied my design and pattern. Not only have they copied my 'Stage 1' and 'Stage 2' names, [but they] used my colours and designated Google Ad keywords to divert potential customers."

McLaughlin said she was convinced that her design and concept were stolen after her team discovered her baby carrier was twice ordered and delivered to Woolworths' head office.

Woolworths said, "This is not in line with our values and goes against the very clear policy and creative guidelines we have in place for our design process. This lapse in process is being addressed internally."   

McLaughlin said the saga had affected her business and  her customers.

"We’ve been asked whether we are now stocking our baby carriers in Woolworths and how Woolworths are able to sell them so cheaply compared to ours."

While McLaughlin said she had suffered, she had decided not to sue Woolworths but wanted her design removed from stores and an explanation of what had happened given by the retail giant.

"I am not trying to boycott Woolworths, my aim is to challenge them to step up and do business better."

Woolworths said that after their meeting with McLaughlin it would improve the way it sources designs.

"We are intensifying and strengthening the training of our people, our suppliers and partners on our values-based approach to the design and sourcing process," Woolworths said. "We are removing all product from our stores and online. Customers who wish to return their product may do so for a full refund."

Consumers lambasted Woolworths on social media after McLaughlin’s blog and tweet.

Someone parked a luxury SUV outside a branch of Woolworths with a sign "Stop Killing SMEs" (small and medium enterprises) on the back window.

Woolworths said: "We have sincerely apologised to Shannon personally and we would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to our customers who expect more from us."