Online nursery retailer has announced it is to open 10 new shops in premises left empty by Best Buy.

The announcement of the new offline stores was made through Kiddicare’s social media platforms and customers will be able to decide which store opens first through a Facebook vote.

The e-tailer was bought by Morrisons for £70m last year in a bid to extend the supermarket’s online presence, which has lagged behind its competitors.

Kiddicare has physical presence in Morrison’s stores with click-and-collect kiosks, but opening 10 ‘superstores’ is a bold move.

Kiddicare COO Simon Harrow said that the e-tailer is in a strong position after its sales grew 30% year-on-year, with its existing flagship store in Peterborough achieving sales of £8m.

The Kiddicare model already shows that we can operate profitably with destination super stores alongside the online channels. The new stores will also provide great marketing support for Kiddicare’s online operations, and we believe that a multichannel offer for specialist baby goods works well in building brand loyalty.”

He said the existing Kiddicare store has become a destination shop, a bit like the IKEA of the baby world, so by having a network of destination stores across the country this offers parents the chance to physically explore the product ranges and talk to customer advisors.

£15m will be spent refurbing the new stores with a focus on the shopping experience – it will offer services such as free car seat fittings and VIB (very important baby) personal shopping service. 

But by moving Kiddicare offline, Harrow admits there is the danger that the stores will eventually cannibalise online sales. 

Because of the sheer size and number of the new stores he expects the physical retail revenue to outweigh the online revenue once they are all open. 

This is about expanding Kiddicare’s baby equipment market share and multichannel offering – the difference is we’re doing it ‘backwards’ compared to many other companies. We already have a successful online business, which we’re now growing with additional physical space.”

Lovehoney e-commerce manager Matthew Curry said the move to take Kiddicare offline is a logical step as its brand recognition had neared saturation point online, so brick-and-mortar stores are the only way to allow further growth.

He believes that the brand is well placed to flourish offline as it is customer focused and data driven.

Like many of the new-breed pureplays reaching maturity, Kiddicare is a very data-driven, testing-focused and risk-neutral company. It’s also built on a bedrock of customer service, so it will be looking at how to apply this company personality offline.”

The data-driven approach will also mean Kiddicare can attract new customers as it can analyse cross-channel behaviour to ensure the move is acquisition focused. 

As we are so often told, the future is cross-channel, so of course they can expect some cannibalisation of their online sales. However the trick is to use cross-channel behaviour to strengthen customer service, and learn more about the customer, ultimately increasing retention rate.”