The Maclaren stroller was born from the highest standards of safety and innovation. Owen Maclaren, a former test pilot and aeronautical engineer, adapted his work from the Spitfire fighter plane to create a smarter stroller; one that could provide his granddaughter with comfort and safety without being cumbersome and heavy. His 1965 design and patent was the start of Britain’s most famous line of umbrella strollers. Since that time, Maclaren’s products have helped transform the lives of mothers and babies offering safety, quality, and portability; a blend of progress that maintains the Company’s pre-eminent reputation in the field of baby care. Maclaren products are sold from New Zealand to London and from South America to the Middle East in over 50 countries today. The Company’s product range has expanded to include accessory solutions for mothers, nursery furniture, and well-being products. Maclaren, in its strongest state to date, continues to provide what a mother wants and what a baby needs.
Shortly after founder Owen Maclaren was granted a patent for the world’s first umbrella folding baby stroller, commercial production started in his converted stables. By the end of 1967, over 1,000 strollers had been produced and sold. It was clear that lightweight, durable strollers were in the highest demand by British mothers, and production had to increase. Factory space was rented in Barby and Daventry, Northamptonshire, England, and research and development was established in Long Buckby. The factory, after one year of output, produced 180,000 strollers to meet growing demand in 1975. The same year, Maclaren kept the needs of children in mind by introducing the Play Buggy; a replica stroller that can be pushed by a small child. The product became an immediate success among Britain’s children and was awarded toy of the year in 1976. Production of full-size strollers, in the meantime, had increased to over 600,000 units, almost half of which were being exported. Maclaren’s growing operations in 1976 used over 4,000 miles of tubing and 1.5 million yards of fabric, marking explosive growth for a company less than ten years old.
The late 1970’s and 1980’s marked a period of breakthrough product innovation for Maclaren, and the world noticed. In 1977, the first “lie-back” stroller is produced, allowing a baby to recline in the stroller seat and adding to the functionality of the stroller. The model utilized a new “balloon tire” design to provide a smoother experience for baby and mother. Innovation continued in 1981 as Maclaren became the first stroller company to use front swivel wheels and linked rear brakes for a standard of safety leagues above the competition. A year later, the first fully-integrated baby transport system was revealed by Maclaren in the form of the Porta-Buggy.
The company began to take on foreign markets in 1984 with a new model, the Sovereign, after more than 5 million stroller units had been sold in the United Kingdom. Almost instantly this export model became a success, and became the best-selling stroller in the U.S. and many other leading markets. The Company, seeking to push innovation while expanding overseas, developed the first stroller able to transport a child from birth in the Dreamer stroller. Maclaren’s consistently high standards of manufacturing and perennial success of new models earned the British Design Council’s permission to carry the “Design Centre” logo on the Dreamer De Luxe and Sprint strollers in 1985. The same year, the Dreamer De Luxe is given the Gold Award for best new British product at the 1985 Child and Nursery Fair as well as the Silver Award for overall best product. The model combined all the best features of the original Dreamer with new features, including an integral shopping tray for mothers. Maclaren’s safety standards also applied to its factories: in 1985 the Company won its 10th consecutive Annual Safety Award by the British Safety Council for the prevention of employee accidents. Before the end of the decade, Maclaren would launch three new breakthrough models: the Maclaren Cub, a multi-position pushchair with a chassis that could accommodate an optional carry-cot; the Maclaren Lullaby, the first traditional pushchair; and the Maclaren TC Transit Chair, a mobile chair to transport adults who are unable to walk any distance. Twenty years of operation at Maclaren had created the world’s most dynamic product line of strollers.
Maclaren continued to be at the cutting edge of stroller manufacturing during the late 1980’s and 1990’s and began a transitional phase at the corporate level. After doubling its production capacity with the purchase of more factory space in 1987, the Company was acquired in 1988 by Hestair plc, a publicly quoted company with interests in employment agencies and consumer products. The new Company is named Hestair Maclaren. The same year, Hestair plc acquired Cindico of Driffied, manufacturers of nursery products and pushchairs. Driffied became a part of the Hestair Maclaren Group within Hestair plc’s Consumer Products Division, and the company was in a strong position to add to an already well-developed line of products. In 1989, after revised market research, the Company released two new stroller models aimed at a consumer sector that demanded more a more dynamic product. The Super Dreamer featured a revolutionary “clip-in, clip-out” seat, and the Skipper catered to mothers seeking a combination stroller.
Hestair was purchased by B.E.T. in 1990 in a transaction that would prove to be somewhat shortlived: the same year, Hestair’s directors announce a management buyout from B.E.T. and succeed. All the while, Maclaren announces the world’s first car seat pushchair with the introduction of the multi-seat accessory for its Super Dreamer combination. The multi-seat acts as a rearward facing car seat for infants, a low chair, and an infant carrier, easily clipped into the Super Dreamer pushchair chassis. This allowed the baby to be moved from the house to the car and into the pushchair without being removed from the multi-seat – an industry first.
Maclaren’s independence from its parent company reinforced the Company’s commitment to innovation and forward thinking. In 1991, a contemporary and refreshing marketing campaign was launched to give the Company a well-timed rebirth in the eyes of global consumers. The company repositioned and reshaped its image and identity based on a new mission statement: “What a mother wants. What a baby needs.” The programme included a new logo, literature, press advertising, and two television commercials. A flurry of new models was subsequently launched, each at the cutting edge of stroller technology. New model rollouts throughout the early 1990’s culminated in the Maclaren Chamade: a luxury 2-in-1/3-in-1 combination pushchair offering “the closest thing possible to the comfort of a mother’s arms”. The model went on to receive a joint First Award in the prams and pushchairs category at the Annual Child & Nursery Show at Earls Court in 1993. In the same period, the company pushed design limits in double strollers with the Duette – the first twin umbrella fold Buggy that can take babies from birth and fit through a standard width doorway. The Duette earns three top awards at the Child & Nursery Fair in London: Best Overall New Product, Best New British Product, and winner of the Gold Award in the prams and pushchairs category.
In 1994, Maclaren was acquired by the Sunleigh Group. The company designed several new stroller models and began increasing production of children’s furniture until the 1999 establishment of Maclaren USA, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary formed to market Maclaren products in the U.S. and Canada. The creation of Maclaren USA, Inc., referred to as “MUI”, marked the beginning of the Company’s present state and one of more explosive growth. Sales increased in several key Western markets, including several in Europe that had been somewhat static since 1994, and the company repositioned itself to focus on a global strategy. A website was established (www.maclarenstrollers.com), and a second property (www.majorstrollers.com) was established for the Company’s special needs products. Additionally, Maclaren established the first known on-line warranty registration system in the baby products industry. In the midst of this transition, Maclaren’s new Opus Duo model received the highest accolade in its category: Best Baby Transport from Consumer Magazine’s Annual Mother & Baby awards.
The turn of the decade brought a transformed Maclaren that was characterized by quality of design and superior safety standards. The drive to break the mould in the child products space had gained the attention of not only demanding mothers, but prominent designers as well. Designers Bill Amberg and Kate Spade both teamed up with Maclaren to produce strollers that were highly functional as well as “objects of design” in 2001 and 2002. Maclaren managed to combine good design with the highest functionality; a feat that few consumer goods companies can achieve. The launch of its Volo model in 2003 was the birth of the company’s flagship. Upon its debut, Fit Pregnancy called the stroller “close to perfection” for mothers.
Awards for the Volo were not the first for Maclaren, and they proved to be only the beginning in a production period for the new Company that could only be defined by its critical acclaim. The Twin Traveller was named Baby Talk Magazine’s “Editor’s Choice” in 2003. The Volo was New York Magazine’s “Best Bet” the same year, and Maclaren as a company was awarded Mother & Baby’s prestigious Award for Excellence in recognition of industry contributions. Between 2004 and 2005, Maclaren added the Quest stroller, the Techno XT stroller, the Front Carrier, and the Mac Sac – and awards followed immediately. The Techno XT was awarded Best Value and Reader Favorite by Prima Baby Readers and Mother and Baby, and both baby carriers were awarded the Gold and Platinum Awards, respectively, from Baby and Toddler.
Maclaren launched a line of skin and body well-being essentials in 2005 with its beginning line, offering mothers more tools to take care of their children and themselves.
In 2009 and 2010, Maclaren gained public attention for isolated incidents involving injuries to children from stroller hinges. The incidents were rare (less than two dozen in total) and occurred as a result of operator errors, which was perhaps the main reason Maclaren continued its dedication to parents by settling incidents out of court. Maclaren issued a voluntary recall of its strollers, meaning no products were ever removed from distributors or in showrooms, but hinge covers were given to customers free of charge. As of late 2010, publicity around the incidents had receded and stroller models continued to be recognized by parenting publications for excellence in design.
In August 2012, Maclaren launched its flagship eCommerce property: www.shopmaclarenbaby.com. The online store features the most complete range available of Maclaren products and serves customers in North America, with plans to roll out to Europe and Asia in 2013.
Today, after over 40 years of innovation, Maclaren continues building strollers and children’s furniture according to the same standards of its founder. An industry leading creation team produces stylish and comfortable models and engages in co-branding with some of the world’s foremost designers. Some of the sector’s best product engineers set safety standards that far exceed the voluntary minimum requirements of strollers. The entire product line is backed by a sound business headquarters and marketing staff focused on providing mothers the best for their children on a global level. Maclaren’s core values and future operational plans can be simplified to its mission statement: What a mother wants, what a baby needs.