Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to take customers from your competitors (nicely!)

Uh oh! Here comes another pram. Yikes - and a toddler too! It's yet another parent battling to do their shopping with kids in tow.

Do your staff know how to deal with an incoming mother and her tired kids? She wants to spend. She NEEDS to spend.

So how do you and your staff ensure she spends her budget in YOUR store, rather than walking out in frustration and going up the road to your competitor.

When a customer comes in to the store with children, it is often difficult to engage them in the sales process because they are distracted by their kids. Because some sales staff believe they won’t get a sale from a customer with kids in tow, parents can sometimes feel ignored or unwelcome.

Here are a few tips you and your staff can use to make it easier for everyone when children visit the store.

1. Greeting

A friendly greeting to both parent and child goes a long way towards creating a favourable first impression with the parent and doesn’t take much effort.

When you or your staff greet a child, get down to their level and say hi with a big smile, without getting too close. Children respond to a smile but shy away or get upset if you get “in their face”.

2. Get a play solution and use it as a sales tool

Having a safe play solution in-store gives your sales team the opportunity to open a dialogue with the customer whilst simultaneously offering a greatly appreciated customer service. A good introduction might be:

“Hello, how are you. I just want to let you know we have a play panel over here which the children may like to play with while you browse.”

This is a great example of how to turn a browser into a buyer. Without the play solution, that opportunity wouldn’t exist.

A play solution keeps the parent in the store and we all know the longer a customer stays in the store, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

3. Change room antics

If the parent is trying something on, ensure the child is in the change room with him or her. Whilst it is not advisable to offer to look after the child whilst mum or dad is changing, let the parent know that you’ll cover the exits, just in case there’s an escape attempt! It’ll give them peace of mind just knowing you’re keeping an eye out.

4. Bratty behaviour

If a child starts to create havoc in your store, politely let the parent know and ask them to take the child’s hand. Unfortunately, if someone is injured in your store because of the actions of an unruly child, the liability rests with you – the store owner – so it’s in your interests to ensure the parent controls the child. Never touch a child yourself unless the parent has given you permission.

5. Fifty cent gifts for a $50 sale?

Keep a jar of little gifts you can give away to kids. Remember, they are your customers of the future so you want them to associate your store with pleasant memories. Lollies aren’t always appreciated by parents and can be controversial, but fun stickers are a good idea – kids love them and they’re inexpensive. Just make sure to get the parent’s permission as the child might be younger than you think and put them straight in their mouth!

6. A great reason to contact your customers

Do you have an email database of customers that you correspond with infrequently? Here’s a great reason to get in touch with them. Let all your customers know your store is now child friendly.

Trust me, when a parent knows they will be able to shop in your store knowing their child is going to be occupied by something (anything!), they will flock to your door.

Go on, try it. Implement some or all of these tips this week in your store. The edge you gain might just transform your retail revenues from good to great!

Michelle Barraclough is a director of Child Friendly Solutions Pty Ltd which specialises in in-store play solutions –
(02) 9984 0769.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Parents Room For Centro Warriewood

Child Friendly Solutions is going gung-ho on the whole parent's room thing. Loving it!

We've just helped Centro Warriewood with a mini-makeover of their two parent's rooms - new carpet, stylish furniture, a Play Panel and some funky wall art with a space theme has turned a fairly cold, clinical room into a nice little haven for parents to feed a baby while older children play safely.

Here are the before and after shots . . .


Cold lino, hard plastic chairs . . . management made the wise
decision to soften the edges a little.


It doesn't take much to create a more welcoming look and feel.
And of course giving parents a nice environment to feed and
change little ones keeps them in the centre longer, spending,
instead of heading home.
You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment at

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Retail Doctoring

This morning found me up and about at what felt like the middle of the night but was actually 5.30am, getting ready for a business breakfast in North Sydney.

When day actually did break and I could see sufficiently to ensure I hadn't substituted eyeliner for lipstick and didn't have my dress tucked into the back of my pantyhose, I choofed off to the Harbour View Hotel to listen to some fabulous speakers on the topic of Retail Trends.

First up was Dr Sean Sands from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, talking about the key trends that will impact the retail industry over the next ten years. You can find out more here.

The key point seemed to boil down to that ol' chestnut - LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. Amazingly, some major retailers still don't do that.

This frustrates me no end. I often walk into stores where the manager has seen a need to occupy children so that she can keep her customers who shop with kids in the store longer. She has brought in the box of broken Lego and a few dog-eared books from home.

Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a gorgeous refit when the thing that's really getting the customers in and keeping them there spending, is a box of one-armed Barbies and one-legged Buzz Lightyears?

Really, is that how head office wants to project their brand? Apparently so, judging by the number of frustrated sales staff and store managers who say that head office refuses to consider a safe, branded, space-effective play solution.

Brian Walker, the Retail Doctor, elaborated on this point by highlighting the disconnect between head office and the coal face of the retail business. Brian's a bit of a guru in the retail space, teaching retailers how to implement retail strategies that work. You can learn more about him here.

Finally we heard from Roy Tavenor from Red Design Group. He has just come back from exotic Istanbul where retailers are ripping it up with fantastic store design and a 'green' approach to retailing. Roy talked about the growth of private brands (thanks for the Aldi wine tip!) and the downsizing of the mega-store, as well as the importance of going as 'green' as possible to reduce our carbon footprint.

All up, an interesting morning and I strongly recommend, if you are a retailer, stopping by the speaker's websites and asking them for their presentation notes.

Then, because there is not a hotel on this planet that can produce a decent coffee or tea from a pot that's been on a warmer for 2 hours, I topped off my virtuous educational morning with a skim chai latte from Greenwood in the recently-awol sunshine. Luvverly!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Play Tables

That ol' saying "necessity breeds invention" has certainly been true for me this week.

I got a big order for the Ocean Maze Play Table earlier in the week from one of my corporate clients, followed a day later by an order for another 3 from another client.

But in typical Sod's Law fashion, my supplier informed me they are out of stock until mid to end of August.

After uttering a few things under my breath (like 'darn' and 'heck') I thought, rather than make my client wait, I would look for some other comparable products and found these:

Introducing the Space Maze Puzzle Table (top) and the Wire Beads Table.

Now, even though the Wire Beads Table is rather unimaginatively named (compared to the dazzling Space table) don't let the plain moniker fool you. It's a clever and funky little design. I mean, check out the multi-coloured legs for a start! Designed to attract children straight to it, and get them away from your lovely clean store displays.

Cute huh?

Now I just hope my clients think so too because (a) they're the same price as the ones I can't get and (b) they are waiting patiently in a warehouse not 5km from where I am sitting congratulating myself.

And if anyone else likes them, I'll get them on the website soon. Or if you're the type who needs instant gratification, you can contact me now and I'll give you my undivided attention!

You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment at

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Goodbye May, Hello June

Oooh, it's getting chilly here in Sydney. We're back into our boot-shod, scarf-wrapped winter clothes and have dusted off the slow cooker!

May was a wonderful month for Child Friendly Solutions with lots of fabulous new clients coming on board including:
  • K-Mart

  • Dept of Community Services - Muswellbrook

  • Dept of Immigration & Citizenship

  • Erina Fair Medical Care

  • Great Southern GP Network

  • Icon Medical

  • Ingle Farm Shopping Centre

  • Redland Bay Early Education Centre

  • White Retail Group

  • Westfield Warrawong
And welcoming back some 'old' clients stocking up on 'new' child friendly products:
  • Cockburn Gateway Shopping City

  • Westfield Belconnen

  • Westfield Hornsby

  • GPT Casuarina Square

  • Royal Children's Hospital Brisbane

It's funny, but we always thought with this business that we would be constantly seeking out new clients because our play equipment is the sort of thing clients would only buy as a 'one-off'.

Yet, we find that many clients come back to us for new products or because they've expanded and need new Play Panels.

And now that we've been in business for 10 years, we're delighted to find that when old Play Panels wear out from so much child-love, our clients return to us for new ones, so delighted have they been with the durability of the product over a long period of commercial use.

We were always a tiny bit scared that we'd run out of customers one day, but I'm proud as punch to see our existing clients returning.

You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels and other play equipment at

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Is there a more hideous process than moving house?

Yes! Moving office as well.
And of course, in the middle of everything, Child Friendly Solutions experiences an unprecedented demand for play equipment. It's like some kind of twisted version of Murphy's Law, but bringing lots of good things all at the same time.
Obviously I'm not complaining. With the recession in full swing (or is it?) all new business is welcome.

Meanwhile, I've decided to create a little 'zen' corner in our office, in the hope that our good fortune continues and that pesky little recession scuttles off to wherever it came from.
My good friend Charle gave me this little stone goddess for my birthday two years ago. She also gave me an introduction to National Australia Bank and we have helped kit out several of their branches with Play Panels.
Now that's the kind of friend a girl in business needs! Spiritual inspiration and the slightly more 'earthly' inspiration of a flesh & blood client!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Say A Few Words

Have you ever been in a change room, when at the exact moment you are clad in only bra & knickers (mismatched of course) and maybe even a pair of knee-hi stockings just to complete the look, your toddler escapes under the door and makes a run for it?

We’d love to hear about your experiences shopping with children - the good, the naughty, the downright awful! You’ll always find a sympathetic ear here at the Child Friendly Solutions blog.

Click on the Comments link below and tell us all your most hilarious, frustrating or just plain hideous story about shopping avec enfants!

You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels and other play equipment at

Free Report - Increase Sales With A Child Friendly Approach

If you’re a retailer experiencing tough times, here are some sobering statistics that could help you.

Research shows that 85% of parents shop with their children in tow BUT 91% of them experience difficulty making a purchase due to their kids distracting them?

That means that a significant number of your customers are potentially walking out the door, without making a purchase, just because dear little Johnny and darling little Jane aren’t occupied and are bugging mum and dad for a donut.

How does that translate into lost sales in your business? If you lose $100 in sales a day from these customers, that equates to over $35,000 in lost sales each year.


Fortunately, it doesn’t take a huge amount of time or money to keep those mums and dads in your store spending. You just need a safe, space-effective play solution and a few tips on how to maximise sales, all of which you can find right here in our Free Report.

Happy reading!

Child Friendly Solutions has been assisting Australian retailers with in-store play solutions for 10 years including Big W, K-Mart, Westpac, Toyota and Forty Winks. You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels, Play Tables and other play equipment, as well as lots of information on becoming a child friendly retailer, at

The Child Friendly Army

I received a lovely call from my friend Leonie last week saying she’d just been to the dentist and seen a Child Friendly Solutions Play Panel in the waiting room, keeping two toddlers (and their mums) very happy.

She sounded so excited to find one of my company’s products out there, in the real world, being used by real people, although I put her excitement partly down to the hysteria of actively ignoring her impending root canal.

But seriously, this is one of the best parts of having your own business; knowing that you are providing a product or service that is really helping people and making their life a little bit easier.

We often receive emails from grateful parents thanking us for helping to inject a little sanity into their shopping excursion or trip to the doctor as their children are safely and quietly occupied by play equipment that they know is safe, like this one from Kim, who saw our Play Panels at her local doctor’s surgery:

The Play Panels were MARVELLOUS. They kept my kids entertained during the
gruelling wait.
And that's what put a spring in my step today!

You can find Child Friendly Solutions Play Panels and other play equipment at

All About Child Friendly Solutions

Hello there,

Lovely to meet you.

I'm the owner of Child Friendly Solutions, a business that was founded in 1999 to help retailers keep the little darlings who go shopping with their mums and dads safely occupied in stores (without the use of strong rope and/or metal cages!)

Since then, we have sold over 5000 play solutions to nearly 700 retail stores, shopping centres, medical practices, hospitals, pubs, clubs and government offices around Australia, NZ, the UK and the good ol’ USA (pleeeease fix your currency soon!)

And me? I’m a Melbourne-bred, Sydney-converted former marketing consultant who loves kids, but can see (with the exceptional clarity that can only be borne of knock-down-drag-em-out experience) the pitfalls of shopping with them. Hence, Child Friendly Solutions!

Happy reading and let’s start talking. I’d love your feedback on any post that rings your bell or gets you hot under the strap of your baby bag!

Michelle Barraclough :)