The must-have buggy that costs more than a second-hand car

It's the mother of all baby buggies and the ultimate status symbol for family outings. Despite coming with a hefty £1,200 price tag, the Bugaboo Donkey is galloping out of stores.

Launched in the US with its own red-carpet premiere, the Donkey is being marketed as the stroller equivalent of a high-performance sports car.

The first stroller to tip the £1,000 scales, the Donkey’s secret weapon is an expandable frame, which transforms with a click from a one to two-seater. The vehicle also promises additional storage space for shopping and nappies.

Toddlers will no longer belong to the “squeezed middle” if their aspirational parents are willing to spend £1,200 for the fully pimped-out Donkey, with its spacious, reclining double-seats.

Sceptics questioned whether hard-pressed parents could justify investing in the Donkey, named for its capacity to carry a long distance load, which makes no claim to be safer than other strollers.

However Bugaboo, the Dutch company which came to prominence when its strollers featured on Sex and the City, is gambling that the children’s luxury goods market is immune from the “age of austerity”.

Research from Mintel found that UK spending on buggies and prams has defied the recession, increasing by 13 per cent over the last two years.

Parents spent £225 million on prams and pushchairs with John Lewis recording an 11 per cent increase in buggy sales.

In the US, where the Donkey sells for $1,500, the buggy’s launch prompted scenes similar to the arrival of the iPad2. Parents were placed on waiting lists after the initial run sold out.

The Donkey arrived last week in John Lewis, where the cheapest strollers sell for £55, and the early response has been enthusiastic.

A spokesman for the retailer said: “It’s been massive. We’ve been selling the equivalent of one and hour over the last week which is very impressive given that it’s such an expensive product.”

The “boutique buggy” market is fuelled by paparazzi shots delivering celebrity endorsements. Gwyneth Paltrow was spotted ferrying her daughter Apple in the Bugaboo Frog.

Rival manufacturer Silver Cross is favoured by Victoria Beckham and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Buggy designs have become more stylish and without a celebrity backer, a simple, functional Maclaren Quest Sport (£140) isn’t going to impress on a trip to the local park.

The Donkey isn’t merely a status symbol for image-conscious parents, Bugaboo argues. At 29 inches wide it makes negotiating shopping aisles and doorways easier.

It can travel through rough terrain and be steered with one hand, freeing the other for prominent wielding of a BlackBerry phone.

The £1,200 Twin buggy could even save families money, suggests John Lewis, which advertises the product with the claim: “Parents will no longer need to automatically purchase another stroller on the birth of their second child.”

The Amsterdam-based Bugaboo, founded by designer Max Barenbrug and physician Eduard Zanen, was credited with creating the luxury buggy market following the success of its 1999 launch.

The “snob” value associated with the buggies led some nurseries in West London to ban Bugaboos because they were taking up too much space.

But after allowing rivals to eat into its sales, Bugaboo felt the need to unveil a “statement” product, with a price to match.

The company says that, despite requests, they do not give free buggies to celebrities. Madonna, Stella McCartney and and Matthew McConaughey have been pictured with Bugaboo products.

Bugaboo was forced to alter the tread in Bugaboo tyres after customers complained that it proved hard to removed dog faeces from the wheels.

The company has wholeheartedly embraced the hype surrounding the Donkey’s launch. Kari Bioler, president of Bugaboo Americas, said: “We knew it would be popular but it’s turned into a global frenzy. One mother even told us she’d put off having a second child until after the launch.”

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