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Did Isis Parenting fail because we didn't buy enough?

Posted by Joanna Weiss  January 15, 2014 11:40 AM

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If you were a relatively affluent thirty- or fortysomething who gave birth in the Boston area between 2004 and today, you probably know about Isis Parenting. Born as Isis Maternity, the fast-growing chain of parenting resource centers offered childbirth classes, breastfeeding support, new-mom-and-baby groups, and courses for dads and grandparents -- along with the opportunity to buy all sorts of retail products while you happened to be there.

Now, some are positing that a retail downturn was a key reason why the business failed. Others are lamenting the fact that Isis provided much more: Information, hands-on help, and a sense of community. Have you joined the Internet outpouring of regret that Isis has closed? Have you purchased your fair share of baby gear -- or cut back on your baby-centric buying? Check out this Storify of #thingsnancytaughtme, a collection of Isis nostalgia. Then add your thoughts to the comments, or tweet us @BostonComment.

Why the business failed

Isis was catering to a very small niche, and one that was not likely to create long-term repeat business. While new mothers were likely to take all sorts of classes (both pre-natal and post-natal), they were less likely to utilize such services for second or third children. Moreover, they also didn't need to shop Isis retail next time around. Not only because of ever-present hand-me-downs, but because they already knew what was needed and had easier ways to purchase. "Making a go of brick-and-mortar in maternity is extremely difficult right now, particularly because of Amazon," [a] source said. "Twenty years ago, or even 10 years ago when Isis was starting, this could work. Now I'm not sure it can. Even Babies'R'Us -- which is catering to a less affluent population than Isis -- is having some troubles."
Dan Primack, @danprimack
Senior Editor, Fortune; CNN Money post

Why mothers are in mourning

Christine-Koh-by-Kristin-Chalmers-2-1.jpgThe community truly is losing a valued educational, retail, and social support outlet in Isis Parenting. And the impassioned response by local moms doesn't surprise me; for many women, there's a deep, visceral association between Isis, the challenges and joys of early parenting, and much needed friendships made through their Great Beginnings classes. While we're lucky to have other great toy and gear purveyors in and around the city, the loss of Isis Parenting's education and social support offerings is pretty devastating. To fill that immediate gap, I predict that there will be an uptick in moms accessing established parenting groups in their town and groups. And perhaps -- particularly when we hit the good weather -- parents will be especially proactive searching for their tribe at their neighborhood playground.
Christine Koh, @BostonMamas
Editor,; co-author, Minimalist Parenting

What we learned

What we bought

The merchandise itself was generally on the pricier side, but I didn't mind given that I could trust that the products were well-vetted. Need a car seat? Have some questions? Good luck with the pimple-faced sales associate at Babies R Us. Instead of 50 car seats, Isis sold maybe 5. And they knew everything about them. Ditto strollers, etc.
I thought Isis was a shining example of how a small, local, brick and mortar store could succeed against big boxes and the internet. Guess not...
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They taught me how to put the baby seat in my Subaru, how to properly prepare tofu, and how to keep my Schwinn within the bike lane while towing my little Madeline in her bubble wagon.
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