Baby Stores in Singapore

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.

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7 Responses to Baby Stores in Singapore

  1. Dawn Perlner says:

    My guess is the reason baby clothes are expensive is because they’re considered optional/a luxury – the climate in Singapore is conducive to small children running around without clothes on. As for the lack of baby monitors, most parents probably sleep in the same room with their small children – or have a nanny who’s with the child all the time. It’s the difference between a two-class and a three-class society. Inexpensive baby clothes and baby monitors are almost exclusively needed by middle class people, so if there’s no middle class, there’s no market.

    • Crystal says:

      Re–naked babies. Not even close. Singapore is a seriously tight-assed society when it comes to nudity, even among kids. The closest thing you’ll see to a naked kid is at the water park when you see babies in just swim diapers.

      The rooms aren’t big enough (often) to co-sleep. One of the reasons we went with our particular condo is that the rooms are big enough.

      The maids do sometimes sleep on the floor in the kids rooms, but not among the expat families.

      Understand, when I say the clothes are cheap, I’m comparing them to Walmart/Target label quality. Which is crap. But you’re right that it’s a 2 tier society….while I fall into the “upper” tier, I’m still not buying my kid Baby Armani. Luckily I have Gymboree and inlaws to mail me stuff 🙂

      • Dawn Perlner says:

        Right. It seems like what’s missing there is a Carters-type store, where the normal prices are fairly high but there are always things on clearance racks, and there are tons of coupons and bulk discounts. We get almost all of F’s clothes at Carters on sale. It’s even cheaper than Target/Walmart.

        As for naked babies – I meant with just diapers on – but maybe poor kids stay within the slums so you don’t see them running around mostly-naked, or maybe poor families only own a few outfits and do laundry every night.

        In any case, sounds annoying, so I’m glad you thought ahead to bring everything with you!

      • Crystal says:

        Singapore doesn’t have slums. It’s almost kind of freaky like that. There’s poor people, to be sure, but nothing like what you might see in the bad parts of Dorchester. Or at least, the government denies it, and I have yet to see it. And unlike places like Boston, the HDB flats (which is where most Singaporeans live) are mixed right in with the Condos.

        Thanks for reminding me…I need to post about the weirdness that is Singapore when it comes to sales. I’ll do a real post on this next week, but the short version is there is ONE month long sale (going on now, coincidentally) where stuff goes on sale. The rest of the year you might find stuff that’s being discontinued on sale, but nothing like Carters with the coupons and regular sales and awesome deals (although I’m not crazy about their quality either once the kid is wearing “real” clothes…but when the little one is still little and just in the footie pajamas, I’m a big fan).

  2. Nancy says:

    SO very interesting (and thanks for the name drop 😉 ). I was in Paris when I was “a little pregnant” with my first baby and remember visiting a MotherCare store to buy a memento for my baby-to-be, and selected an exquisite newborn velour stretchsuit, but I think I do remember (even 16.5 years ago) that it was more than half baby and toddler clothing plus some strollers and highchairs, etc.

    Are slings and carriers common in Singapore? ERGOs and the like? Are babies seen out and about? Is it a baby-friendly culture? (I know, more questions!) Hello to Elanor.

  3. Daphne says:

    Hi Crystal…

    They’re not exactly all over the place, but you can try Tom & Stephanie’s
    Its a kid’s store / discount store, mostly situated in the suburbs and frequented by locals, I would say the closest to you would be at Tiong Bahru Plaza (just above Tiong Bahru MRT) and it should be on the 2nd floor if my memory serves me right.

    Alternatively, there is also Kiddy Palace. =)
    Here’s a list of their stores in Singapore

    Hope you’ll find these stores suitable =)

    Oh yar….. have you tried Suntec City yet?

    • Crystal says:

      Suntec City may be the most confusing mall I’ve ever been in, with the various towers that you can only cross between on level two and all that!

      But I’ll definitely check out tom and stephanies.

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