A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Love Me, Love My Kids
How to keep children happy in your
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (September
We've always been big believers in the adage, "Love me, love
my kids" and not just because we've had some nightmare
experiences while shopping with Georganne's children.
When George's kids were little, we hauled that double stroller
into more stores than we can count. Sometimes it fit down the aisles
and sometimes we destroyed an entire department. Not on purpose,
mind you. A tiny aisle packed with product just doesn't cut it when
you're shopping with kids. Nowadays, we "borrow" friends'
children so we can keep up to date on the shopping dilemmas facing
It isn't always easy.
You want to attract customers today? Adopt a "Love me, love
my kids" attitude. It's a proven fact that a mother's stress
increases when the kids are bugging her to leave the store. Her
stress – and her ire – also rises when she finds herself faced
with kid friendly signing, such as: "Lovely to look at,
delightful to hold, but if your kid breaks it, we mark it
sold"; "Letting your kids touch our merchandise will
result in bad karma"; and our personal favorite, "Unruly
children will be given an espresso and a free puppy." Yes,
those are real signs from real stores. And yes, it's remarkable that
they are still in business with that kind of customer care.
If your target customer has kids, then it just makes sense to
have something for the kids to do while mommy and/or daddy shops.
Even if your store is small, shopping carts are a good idea.
Carts not only keep the kids contained, with little opportunity to
grab things off the shelves, they also allow mom to shop hands free.
And when mom's hands are free, she'll stay longer and spend more
money. (And you thought that big box retailer gave you a cart just
to be nice.)
There are a variety of shopping carts to choose from, including
carts meant to entertain the kids. These carts look like animals or
trucks. You can also find kid-sized carts so little Suzie can push
hers right along side Mommy's. Check out McCue Corporations' New
Bean carts at www.mccuecorp.com/bean.
IKEA is a store that sells furniture and accessories. Its website
boasts, "You shop, let the kids play!" Customers can drop
the kids off at the IKEA supervised play area and ballroom, and then
shop in peace. This way, everyone's happy. Or if you want them to
help make furnishing decisions, strollers are available at the
We love that IKEA makes strollers available at the entrance for
customers. That's a "What one more thing can we do for
customers?" kind of idea. (The kids' play area, while a nice
idea, is an expensive undertaking.)
This type of play area requires a lot of planning. You will need
additional insurance, closed circuit security cameras, toys and
furniture that's bolted to the floor, plus safeguards that include,
but are not limited to, the following: specially trained staff
personnel in the play area at all times; and a system that accounts
for each child in the play area. Many places with kids play areas
put a numbered bracelet on the child, and a matching bracelet on the
parent. In addition, the parent must sign a form twice – when the
child is checked in and when the parent takes the child out of the
play area. We recommend that you speak with your attorney BEFORE you
install a supervised play area in your store.
Some retailers have unsupervised play areas in their stores. This
has always seemed risky to us. Kids can get hurt while playing if
the retailer has not paid careful attention to whatever it is the
kid is climbing on. Some parents will never use it, while others
will drop the kids off to play, or watch a DVD, while they immerse
themselves in the store. Who's watching the kids?
Your play area needs to be in a place where parents can always
see their children. Make parents accountable with friendly,
easy-to-see signing and specific guidelines about how the play area
is to be used. And, again, it's a good idea to talk with your
attorney before you put one in.
If you do decide to install a kid's play area, pay close
attention to where you put it. Deep inside the store where it can be
easily seen makes more sense than placing it near the front door.
Why take the chance of a child running out the door, or worse,
someone snatching a child while no one is looking?
An article which appeared in the National Automobile Dealers Association's (NADA) Auto Executive magazine (February,
2006), attorney Edward McCreery, partner with the Bridgeport,
Connecticut, firm Pullman & Comley offered the following advice:
1. Tell your insurance carrier you have a play area.
Otherwise, accidents there will not be covered by your liability
2. Post a "Supervise Children at All Times" sign.
Make sure it's in plain view.
3. Comply with all Americans With Disabilities Act
requirements in play areas. For instance, construct ramps instead of
So take a hard look at your potential liability and your sales
floor before committing to a permanent kids play area. Can you
afford to take square footage away from a selling area to dedicate
it to a non-sales area?
Maybe a moveable way to amuse the kids is more like it. One of
our favorite means for occupying the children while parents shop
comes from a flooring retailer who provides customers with 3'x5'
rugs she calls "Magic Carpet Kits."
The store has a handful of Magic Carpets Kits available that
include an assortment of too-big-to-swallow toys, coloring books,
and crayons. When a sales associate is working with a family, he or
she grabs a Magic Carpet Kit and places it on the floor next to the
product the customer is perusing. The Magic Carpets are portable so
the children move from place to place as mommy and daddy shop. This
places the care of the child in the hands of the customer, not the
Love me, love my kids. Ten years ago a retail executive laughed
at us when we installed a baby changing table in his new store's
restroom. He didn't laugh long – shoppers hate having to change a
child's diaper on the floor.In fact, many will leave the store if
the floor is their only option. Why not provide a changing area
that's accessible to both male and female shoppers in your store? We
googled changing tables for store and found a variety of
distributors, including Baby Changing Stations Online. Visit www.babychangingstationsonline.com.
And while you're at it, add a comfy chair. Sometimes busy moms
need a break from shopping to feed the baby. Why not make her feel
Yes, kids are big business. Mommies and daddies shopping with
children are even bigger business. Instead of dreading kids in your
store, look for ways to make them comfortable. Their parents will
thank you in dollars for your consideration.
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.
You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tips, and
techniques to help you grow your business on their Retail Adventures™
They mean it when they say to call if you want to talk about your
store. They know how tough it is right now, and they're happy to
brainstorm ideas with you – they want you to succeed! The website
is www.kizerandbender.com and you can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kizerandbender.
To read previous articles by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles
in the right-hand column.)
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