Cape Town – Ubuntu Baba founder Shannon McLaughlin has welcomed Woolworths’ decision to donate the baby carriers it allegedly copied from her to mothers in need.
The retail giant was caught in a controversy after McLaughlin accused it of stealing her baby carrier design. She had noted stark similarities.
After a social media backlash, Woolworths met her last week and issued an apology. It committed to removing the baby carriers from its stores.
McLaughlin said she was happy Woolworths had decided to donate the carriers, but said she gave conditions.
“I said they need to remove their branding off the carriers and they need to be repackaged because they have incorrect weight ratio and are unsafe for newborns. I will assist them to test the carriers for the correct weight ratio.”
McLaughlin said her company was in talks with Woolworths about being compensated for the carriers it sold for a fraction of the price.
“We are in negotiations and they said on their Facebook page that they are talking about a settlement amount, so we are still in negotiations for that.
“There were other things that I needed to put in that settlement, like they cannot disclose to the public what went wrong.
“But I want them to implement the right training to prevent this happening again. I want that in the agreement so we are a solid example to anyone they try to do this to in future.
“Hopefully they will learn from this. If we come to a settlement and I am happy, then I will not be taking legal action. I hope it won’t go that route.”
She said the debacle had affected her business negatively and positively.
“During the lead-up, when trying to contact them (Woolworths), it had a negative impact because moms who didn’t know the baby carriers were a direct copy were buying them and sharing that they could get stage one carriers at Woolies.
“A lot of moms were saying it was such a good price and it was a rip off to go to Ubuntu Baba. A lot of people were confused and thought we were supplying them.
“We were not able to defend ourselves because they were not responding. Now that they have responded, the support we have got has led to a lot of moms who didn’t know our brand.
“We have had an increase in sales and we think there will be an increase in sales through the coming weeks.”
In response, Woolworths said: “Our intention is to donate the current stock of the baby carriers to under-resourced communities, after the removal of the Woolworths branding and amendment of the instructions.
“This process is under way and we will confirm further details as soon as possible.
“There is an additional confidential proposal under discussion with Shannon and we look forward to our continued engagement with her.”