Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Catalogues we love: Mamas & Papas

Before my husband and I became parents, we attended a class designed to teach us how to bathe a baby properly, how to attach a car seat, and other practicalities. We knew very little about babies; I’d never even changed a diaper. But even we had difficulty holding back our snickers when another parent-to-be asked, “Is it all right to place the baby’s crib next to a wall?” Have you ever seen a crib stood in the centre of a room?

The point is, new parents and parents-to-be worry about everything. In its latest catalogue, nursery retailer Mamas & Papas addresses parental concerns directly—and doubtless gains lots of customers in the process.

Take the spread headlined “Tests to fit with your life”. It details how the Mamas & Papas safety team tests its pushchairs, car seats, cots, beds, and toys. For instance, “A pushchair is folded 3,285 times in a 12-hour period. This is the equivalent of you folding your buggy three times per day for three years”. And “We test our cot beds to hold 15 stones”. That would support even baby Dumbo.

The 216-page catalogue is organised by product category, and the section selling pushchairs and prams opens with a spread clarifying the types of pushchair available (buggies, pramettes, twins, combos), the available features (swivel wheels, seat unit recline, toddler ride-on step), and how to determine which features are best suited for your lifestyle. If you rely on public transit, for instance, you’d probably be better off with a different model than if you have a car. When we bought our pushchair from a chain store in the States nine years ago, the salesperson helping us didn’t mention any of those points.

On the pushchair product pages themselves, Mamas & Papas includes handy “Why buy me” guides calling out pertinent features as well as weight guidelines and dimensions. If that’s still not enough information for you (and goodness knows new parents are ravenous for information), each “Why buy me” box includes a bold orange graphic that suggests you “click online for information”. This attention to detail isn’t limited to the pushchairs, either; furniture, mattresses, bedding, and even toys get similar treatment

The clear, easy-to-digest manner in which Mamas & Papas imparts the information critical to making a buying decision is reason enough to love the catalogue. But there are plenty of other reasons as well:

* fabulous in situ photography showing furniture in wonderful aspirational rooms.

* delightful lifestyle shots of babies and toddlers sleeping, playing, snuggling. I’m not one of those people who ooh and aah at the sight of babies (puppies, yes; babies, nah), but even my frosty heart was warmed by some of these pictures. So I can only imagine how the target audience will respond.

* the overall quality of the photos, full stop, particularly of the textiles.

* the clean, clear layouts, the reader-friendly type fonts, and the discriminating use of spot illustrations to add variety to some of the pages while subtly directing eye flow.

* the lush paper, which feels as wonderful as it looks.

* the products themselves. The furniture doesn’t succumb to twee-ness or resign itself to being practical but unattractive. Some of the highchairs, for instance, would fit right in amongst an Eero Saarinen tulip table and some Eames Eiffel chairs. And what I wouldn’t give for the Roundabout Boys wallpaper, or the Hodge Podge knitted blanket, or any of the soft toys on pages 190 and 191… and no, not for my daughter; for me!--SC

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