Ubuntu Baba baby carrier creator Shannon McLaughlin Woolworths Stage 1 and Stage 2 baby carriers threatened to tarnish the very foundation that her brand was built on and would result in damage to the reputation and income of her business. Photo: www.ubuntubaba.com

Cape Town – Retail giant Woolworths is to remove baby carriers from its stores after allegations that it copied the design.

Ubuntu Baba baby carrier creator Shannon McLaughlin accused the retailer of stealing her design after she noted stark similarities, which has caused a social media backlash against Woolworths.

The retailer apologised to her and said it would remove its carriers after a meeting with McLaughlin yesterday.

“We have sincerely apologised to Shannon personally and we would like to offer our heartfelt apologies to our customers who expect more from us. We are removing all the products from our stores and online. Customers who wish to return their product may do so for a full refund.”

Woolworths admitted that although there were some differences, there were “striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for”.

‘‘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.

‘‘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.”

McLaughlin was not available for comment yesterday.

She had detailed in a blog post how the retailer copied her design. She said she did not believe it was a coincidence.

McLaughlin said she was notified of the carrier at Woolworths by a friend and was shocked when she saw it.

Under the title “coincidence, I think not”, in her post, she said the company had ordered one from her company last year.

“One of the ladies on my team suggested searching our online order receipts to see if anyone from Woolworths Head Office had ever purchased one of our carriers and, surprise, we found that an Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 carrier was purchased and delivered to Woolworths Head Office in June 2017.

‘‘Woolworths can surely not contend that they did not blatantly copy the design and concept of my carriers when the Ubuntu Baba Stage 2 carrier they purchased was delivered directly to the Woolworths Sourcing Administrator herself (thanks for the info, LinkedIn) at the Woolworths Financial Services Building in Observatory.”

She said the Woolworths Stage 1 and Stage 2 baby carriers threatened to tarnish the very foundation that her brand was built on and would result in damage to the reputation and income of her business.

“At first glance, it looks like they have just used my product name ‘Stage 1’ and ‘Stage 2’ baby carrier. On closer inspection, I realise that they are using "Upon further investigation, it appears that they have designated the terms ‘Stage 1 carrier’ and ‘Stage 2 carrier’ as Google Adword keywords. 

"So when you search the term ‘Stage 1 carrier’ or ‘Stage 2 carrier’ - the exact names which are unique to my little business - Ubuntu Baba baby carriers and in which my business has a reputation in - Woolworths adverts come up above my organic search results...

"I’m so confused. Why would a big corporate go to such effort to try to copy my product and leverage off my marketing?

"This feels wrong on so many levels. They are selling the carriers for 1/3 of the price that I sell mine - because of course they just have it made in China, while we manufacture ours locally in our little factory in Retreat.”