My friend Nancy from Isis Parenting (if you’re near Boston with a baby-3 year old and don’t know them, you should!) asked me what baby stores are like here.
The answer is…it’s complicated. I’ve certainly done my fair share of exploring malls that are supposed to be baby/mom friendly (or at least have a floor dedicated to moms/babies/kids), but by no means is my research in this area conclusive or all reaching.
If you’re from the US, the 800 pound gorilla of baby stores is, of course, Babies R Us. While Toys R Us has a presence in Singapore (according to their website, 6 stores…two of which are a 20 minute walk-in the same direction-from me), Babies R Us doesn’t. Toys R Us has a “baby” section, but it’s (on average) smaller than the baby section you’d find in a Toys R Us in the US. They also don’t carry cribs (maybe it’s something you have to talk to an associate about, but there aren’t 20, or even 4 floor models of cribs cluttering up valuable retail space here).
The closest thing to a BRU in Singapore (large chain of baby stores that seems to be everywhere) would be Mothercare, with 9 stores (on a small island like Singapore, that’s a big presence). Mothercare is a British chain, and I’m familiar with them from going to one of their stores in London when E was 10 months old (the link is for the Singapore branch of Mothercare, for obvious reasons, though). The thing that strikes me as odd about Mothercare here, though, is that half or more of the store is taken up by baby clothes, which I don’t recall being true in the UK. They do also carry strollers (buggies or prams, here), high chairs, etc, but the selection feels quite small.
Then there are the many small stores, like the one nearest me at Great World City, called Motherswork Baby (they also have a Motherswork Kids at another mall, which I’ll need to check out). These stores have a small (as in 3 or 4) selection of cribs, the usual high end suspects in strollers (Bugaboo, Phil & Ted, UppaBaby) along with the mid-range Maclarens and lower to mid range Chicco. Carseat selection is also small, and other than maxi-cosi, I’ve mostly seen Chicco for the bucket seats. Britax has a small presence here, but not enough that I can replace the carseat that was damaged by our movers. You can find the same Tripp-Trapp high chair that I could buy at Isis. Of course, the rub is that everything is at a significant price increase. The new Bugaboo Bee 2010 model in the US is somewhere around $600, according to Google. In Singapore it’s SG1159, which is USD833. A 33% mark-up for the privilege of buying it abroad, which, for the record is a low mark-up. Barbie Dolls generally go for $40SG, which is $29 US…and when I checked Target’s website, most Barbies max at 20, with most in the 10-15 dollar price.
When you do find Fisher Price or Graco (and they are TOUGH to come by), the markup is usually in the ballpark of 100%. Graco car seats (which I swear by in the infant model) are nowhere to be seen. Neither are snap n go systems, which most moms I know used at the beginning. Maybe because it’s so much less of a car culture?
Two things I find incredibly odd here
1) That Bright Starts and Munchkin, which I always viewed respectively as a low-end brand and Target’s house brand (and also fairly low-end) are sold at RIDICULOUS prices here by otherwise High End stores (they’re selling Sophie the Giraffe, Haba and other expensive Euro imports and Bugaboo Strollers) like they’re some kind of awesome because they’re “imported from the US.” I’m sorry, but I’ve bought toys made by both…they were nothing special and fell apart fairly easily…I doubt they reinforced the stitching while they were jacking the price in Singapore.
2)Walls are SUPER thick in Singapore. As in you hire someone to hang picture because you can not hammer a nail into the wall yourself thick (they use a drill, in case you were wondering). Elanor is in the next room and I don’t always hear her cry because the walls are so thick. So you would think baby monitors would be big here, right? I mean, I had one in the US where her bedroom was on the other side of the apartment but I could always hear her cry anyways because the walls were thin (in our über expensive “luxury” condo). But I had to search high and low to find ANY store that sold baby monitors. The woman at Toys R Us looked at me like I’d sprouted a second head (I’m getting used to that look, btw) when I asked her where the baby monitors were. When I finally did find a couple of stores that carry them (Mothercare among them), they were SG400. I’ll let that sink in for those of you who have bought baby monitors recently. Which, for the record, is somewhere close to a 75% markup from their British price for the same damn monitor if all my conversions are correct. Ravi did his homework and said that they would also most likely interfere with our already crappy internet signal (the thick walls make it hard to get great reception on the opposite side of the apartment). It was easiest for us to get my in-laws to found our 80 dollar baby monitor from the US (which had more bands/features than these 400 dollar monitors, FYI) and to spend money on buying adapters and voltage converters to make it work. I asked at a few stores if people bought them and was told by associates that they’re not that popular among SG moms. Why? I have no idea. It would make sense for the opposite…that in the US where you can usually hear your kid to not bother with a monitor, and here where you can’t to get one.
Here’s one more for you
At Toys R Us and Babies R Us there are prominent RECALL boards. Never seen anything like it here. No displays, no articles in parenting magazines, nothing. Not even at the Toys R Us. Which is kind of surprising, when you take into account how interested the government is in every other aspect of our lives.
There’s also no equivalent to Baby Bargains where they rate products for safety, etc.
In general I am underwhelmed. By the selection, the mark-up, the quality given the price, and a lack of brands that I have loyalty to.
The American moms I met prior to moving here advised that I stock up on sippy cups, toys, clothes, shoes; generally everything for Elanor that I might want. Because, with the exception of Baby Gap, the mark up here is ridiculous and the selection is minimal. Even then, there isn’t a clearance rack, and I’m not overly enamoured of paying 40 US for my kid’s clothing, even if she does grow out of it less quickly than most children do. Of course, 40 US looks completely reasonable once you’ve stepped foot into Baby Armani.
Although we’re not planning on kid #2 until next year, there is a reason I brought every last piece of baby crap with me. Replacing my swing, bouncy seat, high chair, infant car seat, snap & go (assuming I could), and exersaucer would break the bank. Instead, I can re-use it and then sell it on craigslist for roughly what I paid for it in the US, which is still a steal in Singapore.