Here's what we found...
The Quinny stand was abuzz with colourful new launches. The first item to catch our attention was the super-lightweight Yezz (£175). Quinny staff were adamant this is the lightest buggy on the market (although it seems this might not be the case - see below!), weighing in at just 5kg.
It's suitable for babies from six months and folds down so well it'd be a doddle to get on a bus or train, indeed you can even sling it over your shoulder. To keep its weight down, features are pretty basic, but the unusual construction, with fabric suspended by climbing ropes, helps absorb bumps as you push and offers some natural recline.
Even as cynical old things, we were impressed – this should be a great city buggy and seems ideal for parents who've become jaded by their huge, bulky newborn pram and want to switch to something less cumbersome. Plus it comes in a range of cool colours too (shallow us?). www.quinny.com.
At the other end of the scale(s) is the Quinny Moodd, which at 15kg, weighs no less than three times the Yezz (they like their product names to end with double letters at Quinny). Okay it's a very different kind of pushchair to the Yezz, in that it's got far more features (a reversible, lie flat seat, big wheels to cope with rough terrain, an optional foldable carrycot) and is designed to transport newborns in the style to which they are not yet accustomed BUT it's back-breakingly, achingly heavy to lift. In fact, exactly the sort of pushchair which parents regret buying and then trade in for something like the Yezz when their baby's a little older.
It looks cool with its bold design and the option of an unusual white frame on some colourways, but don't say we didn't warn you about the weight problem! See www.quinny.com, priced at £600 (plus £160 for the optional folding carrycot).
From the same parent company as Quinny, Dorel, comes the multi-functional Safety First Connexion concept, with a seat made from the same material as Crocs shoes. This is much more than a plain vanilla baby chariot – the outdoor pack, costing £250, includes the pushchair chassis and seat and a Group 0+ car seat to make up a travel system. All pretty run-of-the-mill but what's different here is you can whisk certain sections of it into the house for use on the 'indoor pack' (£200) - a highchair frame which also doubles as a carrycot base plus an extra seat unit and rocker frame. So for £450 you in effect get a pushchair, pushchair, carrycot with stand for use instead
of a moses basket, a highchair, and a low baby chair.
Confused? We were a bit too - this (extremely cheesy)
video is designed to explain more.
Over at Chicco (which we've always pronounced the Spanish way – 'cheekoh' – as in X Factor singer a few years' back, but were told the company now wants us to say it the Italian way, 'keykoh') we were shown the NuNu Pramette, the company's first product designed purely for the UK market. This comes in at £329.99 and weighs 8.9kg – its styling doesn't seem very exciting compared to some of its competitors' but it's worth a look if you don't want to make the aforementioned 'hefty, expensive newborn pram which you get rid of for a lighter buggy later on' mistake.
Talking of which, one of our favourite lightweight but suitable from birth buggies, the Petite Star Zia, has had a revamp. The new, improved version, the Zia X, still weighs in at under 9kg but now has a sturdier feel, a deeper hood for more weather protection and a wider footplate to accommodate larger toddlers without their legs feeling cramped. At just £139 including a rain cover, it's fab value for a pushchair that should last you all the way from day one to when your child walks full time.
Hoping to make a big impression at the show was brand new brand Joie. As one of the world's largest manufacturers of baby gear, the company has been making things for leading nursery retailers for many years but has now decided to launch its own ranges.
So just minutes after Quinny told us their Yezz was the lightest pushchair on the market, we were intrigued to hear about the Joie Aire travel system which at 4.4kg, pips the Yezz at the post by 0.6kg! It also features a snazzy looking one hand fold and comes in at an impressively low £130 for both pushchair and infant carrier car seat. We haven't tested it properly yet but it looked pretty good to us and was reasonable to push about on the stand. There's also the 'Aire Luxe' pushchair only version, with a bit more padding, but no car seat, for £90.
Next door to new-on-the-scene Joie, was baby gear stalwart Silver Cross. Their Sleepover (£575 for the package including pushchair, changing bag, footmuff, carrycot and carrycot stand) has had a redesign, giving it more of a 'vintage' look.
There was also a sporty all-terrain version of the company's Surf pushchair (£600) – we can imagine dads in particular fighting to get their hands on the handlebars of this one.
The name of another overseas brand launching in the UK market at the show – 'Casual Play' might not translate well for a baby gear company but, according to the folk on their stand, this is the number 1 nursery brand in Spain and there were some chic and smart pushchairs and car seats on display. Definitely one to watch as their products start hitting our high streets soon. We'll bring you more information and pics shortly.
Britax were proudly showing off their Trifix Group 1 ISOFIX car seat which features a top tether (an extra fixing point between the top of the seat and your car for added safety). Top tethers are popular in other countries (they're compulsory on child seats in Australia for example) and Britax is hoping to make this style of seat more popular here. The problem: whilst we all want to keep our kids as safe as possible, the company might have its work cut out persuading parents to part with the expected price of £319.99 (although this figure is still to be confirmed), despite its enhanced safety features.
The chaps on the Joie stand seem to have had more of a focus on finances, with their 'Stages' car seat. Combination car seats aren't new but what's different here is that this one seat covers the Group 0 stage (from birth), Group 1 AND Group 2 (up to age seven), all for £150. We suspect there might be some compromises given this single seat is supposed to keep tiny newborns through to strapping kids safe and comfortable but we'll be happy to be proved wrong. Even if it isn't perfect, it could be an ideal buy for a second or grandparents' car.
Germany company Kiddy, have also been thinking about our pockets, with a new budget Group 0+ car seat the 'Kiddynest'. On sale from February 2012, it's not going to have quite the sturdiness of their more expensive models but for just £50, again, it'd be a good purchase for occasional use, perhaps by parents who don't own a car but need an infant carrier for journeys in taxis or friends' vehicles now and again.
NURSERY FURNITURE AND INTERIORS
Another brand which has introduced a recession-friendly line is KUB. Their 'Nativa' room set has an official price of £620 for a wardrobe, cot and chest of drawers but we're reliably informed that if you shop around in the coming weeks there's 20 per cent off, making it a very reasonable £496 given it's all made from solid wood rather than veneers/ MDF.
We loved the small but perfectly-formed Baby Joule furnishings and room accessories ranges. Whether you're a fan of their clothing designs or not, what they've come up with for their nursery offering is pretty darn nice. The turquoise-blue 'On the Farm' line for boys is a welcome and rather chic alternative to the usual diggers/ dinosaurs stuff, whilst the pink 'Mad Hatter' designs are pretty but the right side of twee. All fabrics are reversible so you can create a mixed and matched look (or turn them the other way if they get wash-proof stains from baby puke or poo!) The range is at the upper-mid end of the market but very well-made - a cot mobile will sell for £40, a crocheted blanket, £30 and a moses baskets £85. - products available from the end of November/ early December.
We were delighted to discover Olli Ella's chic nursing armchairs at a previous trade show (at last, nursing chairs which don't look like they belong in a nursing home!) So we were interested to see this Brit brand has now launched stylish organic baby bedding products too. Prices start at £25 for a 'boudoir pillow' (that's a decorative cushion in real world speak) and £35 for a baby sleeping bag.
Those of you interested in adding some swank to the nursery, could also check out Dutch company, Koeka. Theirs are not exactly Ikea prices but this is super-smart stuff – with a cot blanket, £46, and smooth as silk Egyptian cotton sheets which retail at £20.
HIGHCHAIRS, BOUNCERS and SWINGS
KUB's Lumia highchair looks like a cheaper version of the very popular Stokke Tripp Trapp but is going to sell for considerably less at £80. Even better, it's being sold at a promotional price of £64 in the coming weeks so you could nab a bargain if you shop around at the right time. Like the Tripp Trapp, it starts off as a baby's highchair, converts into a toddler dining seat and then an adult chair. A cushion and other accessories will be hitting nursery stores soon. It's suitable from six months but Lumia's cushion (which will be sold separately) might be needed to keep new-to-weaning babes feeling comfortable in their seat.
A clever little innovation is the Chillipeeps feeding teat. It can turn any formula carton or bottle of mineral water into a baby bottle. Sterilisable by all the normal methods – microwave, steam or cold water, it's also dishwasher proof and the teat is 'variflow' (which means it can be slow for a newborn and faster for older babies).
At just £4.99 it could be worth buying one if you're a bottle feeder to keep in your changing bag for emergencies.
Some newborns have skin which can tolerate conventional baby wipes but for others they can cause irritation and many parents prefer to stick with the midwife's advice of only using cotton wool and water initially. The problem is, this isn't very convenient, especially if you're changing nappies out and about and this is where WaterWipes come in - they're as gentle as cotton wool and water on sensitive baby skin, but far less of a faff. £2.99 for 72.
Hand sanitisers are invaluable when you're out and about with offspring and need to clean up their grubby mitts but we know some of you are uncomfortable coating little hands with chemicals, especially before meals, when fingers can come into contact with food. It's pricier than your average hand gel at £9.45 (but currently discounted to £7.45 on their website), but Green People's new 'sticky hand sanitiser is entirely natural, pleasingly foamy for kid appeal and smells fab.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST...
Every baby show needs some products which make us ask 'what the heck?' and this time we have two:
The Cover Me 'safety dome' is intended to protect your little darling from pets or toys chucked at them by older siblings. We can sort of see its point, and it can also be used as an insect net when travelling but we're not sure this is really needed. Should you disagree, it's £29.99.
We also spotted a new Urinal Potty, coming to market soon so we haven't got pics or prices yet. A specially-designed potty for boys who prefer to stand when doing their business, we're sorry to say the predictable but we think it's a potty idea.
Liat Hughes Joshi is the co-author of What to Buy for Your Baby.