Woolworths acknowledges 'striking similarities' with Ubuntu Baba carrier, removes product from stores


Woolworths has said it will remove the baby carrier product from its stores, following a meeting with a business owner who claimed the retailer had copied her idea.

This comes after founder and designer of Ubuntu Baba baby carriers Shannon McLaughlin outlined in a blog post how the corporate copied her product idea.

"It’s 16 December 2018 and I’ve just found out that Woolworths has shamelessly copied the complete design and concept of the baby carrier that I have put my heart and soul into for the last four years of my life," she wrote.

Following a meeting with Mclaughlin on Wednesday, Woolworths tweeted that it had completed the investigation into the allegations of copying.

"While there are differences in our baby carrier, there are striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for," the retailer said.

"We are removing all product from our stores and online. Customers who wish to return their product may do so for a full refund. We remain deeply committed to the development of small businesses in South Africa."

The retailer said it apologised to McLaughlin and to customers who may have expected more of the retailer. Woolworths has removed the product from its website.

"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," Woolworths said.

In her blog McLaughlin explained that Woolworths copied the design of her baby carrier, as well as the product's names. based on her business's receipts, McLaughlin revealed that Woolworths Head Office had purchased two carriers in 2017.

She also said Woolworths was selling carriers at a third of the price because its carriers were manufactured in China, while hers were manufactured locally and poured back into the SA economy. 

"For me, this battle against corporates is more about ethics than anything else. If they’re gonna talk the talk, better walk the walk," she told Fin24 in an emailed response on Tuesday.  

This is not the first time Woolworths was found to have copied a product. In 2012 Woolworths withdrew a a softdrink range, following a complaint by KwaZulu-Natal based company Frankies that the retailer copied its product line, Fin24 reported previously.

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