Chinese baby goods behemoth Goodbaby has stayed largely below the radar in North America, despite rapid sales growth (2012 sales: $587 million). Their claim to fame is as a manufacturer for Dorel (Cosco, Safety 1st, Quinny, Maxi Cosi), the world’s largest baby goods maker. While Dorel does some final assembly of goods in their Indiana factory (Dorel is based in Canada), the vast majority of its car seats, strollers and other baby gear items are made by Goodbaby in China.
Besides Dorel, Goodbaby also makes strollers for Silver Cross in the UK and baby gear for Babideal in France and Play in Spain. Goodbaby also sells goods under its own name in China and Happy Dino in Russa, Asia and South America.
Now Goodbaby has set its sights on U.S., rolling out its first strollers and car seats under the Urbini name, exclusively at Walmart. Here is an overview of the offerings:
- Urbini Omni Travel System: 3-in-1 travel system ($200) features an infant car seat (the Petal) and a multi-function stroller with reversible seat. The infant car seat works from 4-35 lbs. and features a two-position base recline and infant body support pillow. Goodbaby claims the carrier weighs less than 8 lbs (we’ve not been able to verify this in person yet). The Petal also has side impact protection (deep side walls lined with EPS foam).
- Urbini Touri Travel System: Travel system with same infant car seat (Peta) paired with an umbrella-style stroller for $150. Touri stroller features large canopy with sun visor, multi-position reclining seat and cup holder.
- Urbini Hummingbird stroller. A $99 super lightweight stroller with one-hand, self-standing fold. Goodbaby claims the Hummingbird is the “world’s lightest stroller,” weighing in at under 7 lbs.
Our view. First, a few caveats: we have not seen the Urbini in person, as it is only sold (as of this writing) in Walmart and our local stores are out of stock. We do hear it landed in some Walmart stores nationwide in the past week. Also: the web site says most of the travel systems are “coming soon.” It appears the Urbini Omni in black is the first to make it to stores. So, unfortunately, we can’t verify the claims about weights or other specs. We base the below comments on early reader feedback from those who have purchased Urbini in the past week.
Urbini is curious—the car seat is clearly a riff on the Cosco Comfy Carry. Note the similarity in the base and handle with the pictures below:
The Cosco Comfy Carry earned a B in our book; so it is not bad for those on a tight budget (it runs about $56 at Walmart). But . . . you can’t buy the car seat separately. This seems to be a nod to Dorel—we assume Goodbaby doesn’t want to compete overtly with Dorel’s Cosco division. Hence, the Urbini travel systems are priced $150 to $200. Most Cosco travel systems are $100 to $140 at Walmart.
The stroller with the Omni is perhaps most intriguing, as it is one of the lowest-price models we’ve seen with a reversible seat. The Urbini Omni seems to be aiming to be a poor man’s Britax B-Ready ($350) or Uppa Baby Vista ($730, with bassinet). Reversible seats are a big trend for 2014—we’ve noted several new strollers in the Reviews section of our web site that now have this feature. And prices are coming down.
The Urbini Tour’s lightweight umbrella stroller is also unique—similar to the Chicco C6, but with a better canopy and single wheels that are popular in Europe.
Meanwhile the Urbini Hummingbird looks much like a Combi stroller, although the square canopy doesn’t look very effective at blocking sun.
We can only wonder what the folks at Dorel thought when they first saw the Urbini strollers and car seat. While Goodbaby is pricing these units higher than Cosco’s offerings, selling Urbini at Walmart (which must be Dorel’s biggest customer) is probably giving the folks at Dorel heartburn. After all, Goodbaby couldn’t have built itself into the global baby products supplier it is today without the massive contract it has with Dorel. And how long will Goodbaby be content with selling $200 travel systems, when the heart of the market is $100 to $140?
Meanwhile, in other Goodbaby news, the company announced last week it spent $96.7 million to acquire Cybex, the German maker of the Aton infant car seat. Cybex hasn’t had much success in the U.S., partly due to launching during the depth of the recession in 2008-09. We assume Goodbaby sees a growth opportunity with Cybex in the US and, more likely, in China. Or perhaps Goodbaby wants access to Cybex’s patents and designs in order to feed its lower price offerings like Urbini.
As always, we urge caution in using any infant car seat that is brand new. Yes, all seats sold in the US must meet federal safety standards. And Walmart wouldn’t sell these items without making sure they meet their own internal safety standards. That said, we’d like to see at least six months to a year of a track record before recommending a new car seat brand. We’ll be watching the installation reports of the Petal infant car seat—just because Goodbaby has infant car seat that looks “inspired” by the Cosco Comfy Carry doesn’t mean it will work as well as the Cosco original.
Ditto for the strollers. The models look intriguing . . . but the proof is in the real world use. We’ll write a full fledge review of Urbini later in 2014, once we are able to see these products in person and hear more reader feedback.