Monday, November 1, 2010

How Retailers Can Increase Christmas Sales in 3 Days

There are many ways to increase your retail sales over the long term. A fancy new fitout, implementing a customer loyalty plan or designing a new product strategy.

But Christmas is less than 8 weeks away and there's no time. Meanwhile, there are plenty of hungry competitors looking to attract the same customers as you in the next few weeks in the race for the Christmas dollar.

So what can you do today to make sure those lovely Christmas dollars end up in your till?

The answer is to become a magnet for the 85% of women who shop with their children in tow and become a child friendly retailer.

Christmas is around the corner. These women not only want to spend, they need to spend and they need to do it efficiently and soon. Yet our research shows that 91% of them end up spending nothing because they are unable to make a purchase due to distractions from their children.

Not only that, but 93% of them said they would prefer to visit a store that provided a safe play product to occupy children. Guess where those customers are shopping? In stores that make it easier for them, providing a child friendly retail experience that minimizes distractions and maximizes their ability to spend.

So what are you doing to attract these customers into your store? If the answer is "nothing" then let me tell you how you can implement a fast strategy this week to get these women through your door and spending in your store.

Day 1 - The Play Solution

Firstly, you need to install a safe play solution somewhere in your store. It doesn't have to be large, expensive or take up too much valuable floor space. Wall mounted play panels that can be affixed to a column or in a change room are a great idea, as are smaller play maze tables that can be stored in a corner and pulled out when needed.

Forget about bringing in a few old toys from home or the local two dollar shop. They are generally not made for commercial use, are unsafe, unhygienic and a liability waiting to happen.

The most important considerations are safety and durability so go for a commercial quality play solution that has been approved by Australian Standards, such as those found at Child Friendly Solutions.

Day 2 - Train Your Staff

Many retail staffers have no idea how to approach a shopper with children in tow, perhaps because they have very little experience with children or because they think they won’t get a sale from those customers. Unfortunately this means parents can sometimes feel ignored or unwelcome.

When retail staff flip their thinking and look at these customers with new eyes, a whole new sales channel will open up.

Spend half an hour today teaching your staff these few easy tips for handling customers with children.

a. 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”.

b. Use the play solution 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.

c. 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.

Day 3 - Spread The Word

Now that you have a child friendly strategy in place, you need to let your customers know all about it. Here are several ways of doing that:

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

b. Put up a sign in the window telling passers-by that the store is 'child friendly'.

c. Include the 'child friendly' message in your advertising. None of your competitors will be promoting that angle, but parents will listen and respond positively to the message.

d. Contact your local paper and see if they'll run a story on the benefits of shopping at a 'child friendly retailer'. Most local papers are starving for content and welcome submissions, especially if they're daily. You can include the benefits to parents and even include a couple of quotes from satisfied customers. Feel free to use the statistics I've listed above from our research. You can find the report here.

e. Are you utilising social media? Twitter, Facebook and Blogging are all great ways of communicating with your customers so don't forget to spread the word via all that newfangled technology. You can even upload a short video of some kids playing in your store - set it to music with a couple of happy mums looking on and some crazy staff dance moves and you never know, it could go viral! Here are some great resources:
So there you have it. Only 3 days to increased sales with minimum expense and time input. The edge you gain might just transform your retail revenues from good to great this Christmas! 

Please drop by and let me know how you go. I'd love to hear what you implemented and how successful it was.

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

Image courtesy of

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How a business owner's good intentions nearly ended in tragedy

I get asked a lot about why we started Child Friendly Solutions and how we came up with the idea of a safe, space-efficient, durable Play Panel to occupy children in stores and waiting rooms.

It was actually my former business partner who spotted the market need but the story about how she did that could have ended, not in a successful business, but in tragedy.

Back in 1998, she took her 2 year old daughter shopping with her. A thoughtful store owner had supplied a box of toys for children to play with so that mothers could browse in peace for a few minutes.

In theory, this is a great idea and one we have based our entire business on for the last 10 years. Keeping children safely occupied in a store allows parents to browse and increase the likelihood of a sale.

The problem was that the play solution the store owner had come up had one critical ingredient missing. It was not safe. The box of toys contained all sorts of bits and pieces, including some very small blocks which the 2 year old girl promptly put in her mouth and began choking on.

The tiny piece of plastic lodged in her throat and, in the end, had to be removed by a doctor in the emergency department. Fortunately, the story had a happy ending, but I think we can all imagine an alternative outcome.

As a parent, this story sends shivers down my spine. As a business owner, whether of a store or a medical practice, it should send shivers down yours too.

Under Australian law, business owners are responsible for the safety of visitors to their premises. So even if an injury occurs to a child on your premises that wasn't your fault, the liability rests with you, the owner of the business. Scary, but true.

To finish the story, not only did young Kayla survive the incident and has now become a gorgeous teenager, but it prompted her mother to come up with a design for a play solution that was not only safe, but met the other requirements of business owners as well. It had to:
  • Conform to Australian Standards
  • Not take up too much (if any!) valuable floor space
  • Be easy to clean and maintain
  • Be extremely durable to withstand the daily onslaught of small, but terrifyingly tough, children.
She came up with the brilliant design of the Play Panel - the signature product of Child Friendly Solutions which has been embraced by over 2000 retail stores, medical practices, hospitals and government departments in Australia, NZ, USA and UK.

Do you have any stories of how a prospective tragedy or a bad experience turned into a great idea? I'd love to hear it. Please share your story in the comments below.

It's getting uncomfortably close to Christmas and you can feel the shopping frenzy is about to hit. If you are a retailer, click here to get 5 great tips on how to take customers away from your competitors (nicely!) this Christmas.

If you are looking for a safe play solution, now is a great time to visit our website and view our range. We are giving everyone who orders in the month of October a giant 400g box of those scrummy balls of yum, Maltesers, for you to share with your colleagues (or not!) Visit and click on Products to view our latest range of play solutions. There's something to suit every space and every budget.

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

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Retail Wonderland - Latest Retail Trends

Last week I attended the Westfield sponsored seminar Retail: The New Normal and it was absolutely fantastic!

I turned up at 7am at the Sheraton in Sydney, expecting maybe 50 bleary-eyed people milling around a coffee urn, hoping to do a bit of networking and maybe get a piece of rockmelon and a muffin.
Instead, the Grand Ballroom was filled with people and the mood was surprisingly buzzy for that time of morning. There were even three types of melon and baked goods aplenty! But the best thing were the speakers, Chris Beer from Luxottica, Jon Bird from Ideaworks (whose blog posts are always fascinating insights into the latest retail trends) and Howard Saunders from Echochamber.

Now, I'd never heard of Howard before last Friday but I am now quite the fan. His presentation was entertaining, informative, inspirational and, at times, crudely hilarious, and I could have watched and listened to him for another hour as he trawled through his happy snaps of amazing retail experiences around the world. From Milan, Barcelona and Tokyo to New York, Malibu and Shanghai, he showed us retail concepts that sent shivers down my spine. And by the way, did I mention I WANT HIS JOB!

You can find a lot of the stores and retail case studies that Howard & Jon talked about here.

For example, the gorgeous Anthropologie stores (above) where their aim is to create an 'experience' for the shopper, not just a departmentalised fitout so, right throughout the store, you'll find little corners full of 'collections' of fabulous items.

And how inviting does this fitout at James Perse in Malibu Cove look? Couldn't you just imagine curling up in one of those chairs with some fabulous tome from the wall behind? This was another retail trend - creating a small, intimate, special space for the customer. And, of course, never making them feel like they have to buy something to enjoy the space.

The other key trend is to display products like an art installation. Check out the Issey Miyake store in Tokyo, where the clothes are kind of 'held up' by these strange looking steel rods. How amazingly different and unusual!

I also love the trend of customisation, like in this Levi's Vintage store where you can select a jeans pattern from 1956 and have it custom made for you in the same kind of denim from back then.

Or the Little Miss Matched stores where little girls can be 'empowered' by selecting unique combinations of socks, or even design their own in-store!

It makes me wonder what Australian retailers are doing to create amazing experiences for their customers.
Luxottica is at the forefront of these trends, creating an eyewear store that has a concierge to greet you at the door, a sports simulation room and, something close to my heart, a well-appointed, sectioned off children's play area. And do you know why they put the kids area in? Because their customers asked for it. Amazing what you can find out if you listen to your customers. Go Luxottica!

What are you doing in your store to create an 'experience' for your customers?

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

5 Mistakes Retailers Make (And How To Fix Them!)

One of the most challenging (perhaps horror-filled for some!) activities is going shopping with young children in tow. You just know there will be tears. Perhaps a tantrum. And babycino froth will almost certainly be involved.

Yet every day, hundreds of thousands of parents do exactly that - shop with kids. They have to. The luxury of your very own Mary Poppins is not something the average mall-going mum can afford.

What's more, these parents are in a hurry. They want to spend. They NEED to spend. They don't have time for willy-nilly browsing and mall-meandering. So if they're in your store, then you are The Chosen Store.

There is a certain responsibility about being The Chosen Store. But there is also the most wonderful opportunity to make this parent not only a customer but a raving advocate. Because parents, particularly mothers, like to rave. And do. To anyone who will listen. The good, the bad (especially the bad) and the ugly. So if they have a good experience in your store, you will become the bee's knees to a whole lot of women you don't even know who will come flocking to your door, ready to spend. And rave.

So how can you make the most of this opportunity?

1. Don't Ignore Parents

Unfortunately a lot of retail sales staff are a bit nervous about approaching a toddler/baby toting momma and tend to simply ignore them instead. Admittedly, we parents can be quite a scary sight at times, especially if said toddler/baby is demanding donuts at full throttle and we forgot to brush our bed hair!

I'm not suggesting you use the false and inane "Hi, how are you?" which every shopper seems to hate. Or the pushy "What are you looking for today?" which makes shoppers want to put their hands over their ears and chant "Don't sell to me! Don't sell to me!"

Try to be helpful and friendly instead with a smile and "Hello. Let me know if there's anything I can help with" then fall back gracefully. Which brings me to Mistake Number 2.

2. Don't Hover

There are certain parenting methods that might seem unsavoury to others but we do them because they work. Like using spit on a finger to clean a face covered in ice-cream. Or threatening no Wiggles for a week if they don't stop whining.

Parents don't, however, want to be observed conducting these parenting techniques so best to keep a rack of clothes between you and them when you're not directly engaging with them.

3. Don't Assume

Many women who come in to your store with their children are in the market for something specific. If you have a clothing store, this could be an outfit for an event or something she needs to buy for a job interview. If that's the case, she will need your help. We all know that women are unlikely to buy something unless they can try it on so if you want that sale, you need to be prepared.

Let her know that trying clothes on is not going to be too difficult by saying something along the lines of "Hello. Just to let you know we have something for your children to play with in the change room at the far end if you feel like trying anything on."

Again, there's no pressure in this statement; you are offering a much-needed solution for a desperate mum in need of a five minute distraction so she can try something on.

And if you don't have something for kids to play with in the change room at the far end, get something!

4. Ban The One-Armed Barbie Brigade

So you're a modern retailer who is embracing the child-friendly trend by bringing in some of the toys your kids no longer play with and popping them into a milk crate in the corner. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see retailers make.

If you're going to provide a play solution, it needs to be safe and tidy. That means nothing that a child can choke on, stab themselves with or poison themselves with. A box of toys is also a constant pain in the neck for staff to tidy and can also present a litigation-worthy tripping hazard!

So invest in a good, commercial quality play solution like those we offer at Child Friendly Solutions. There's also no need to go over the top with a big floorspace-hungry play area. Simple, compact, inexpensive solutions, such as a wall mounted Play Panel in a change room or a Play Table in a corner usually work best.

5. Keeping It To Yourself

So now that you are a child friendly retailer, you need to promote yourself as such. So many times I see stores that have an excellent play solution set up but they don't tell anyone about it.

As I said earlier, mothers love to rave so take advantage of this by promoting your child friendliness in any number of ways:
  • Offer mothers 5 discount cards they can pass on to their friends
  • Incorporate your child friendly status into your promotional communications. Put a sticker on your window telling customers your store is child friendly.
  • Let your database know about your new in-store play solution in your next newsletter (because you do keep a database of your customers don't you!)
  • Generate some PR. Local papers are always looking for stories to fill their pages so contact them with your story.
  • Put up a notice with an offer at the local Early Childhood Centres. These places are full of mums who are all slightly bewildered about how on earth they are going to go shopping with this delightfully time-consuming newborn and a toddler at the same time! You, fortunately, have a solution.
So get on track with your child friendly retail strategy, avoid these common pitfalls, and watch your sales go up!

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Small Retailers Can Take On The Retail Giants

How would you like to compete with the biggest retail chains in the country, but without the massive retail chain budget?

Toyota, Big W, Esprit, Westpac - all of them understand the financial benefit of keeping customers with children in the store or branch longer, as not only are they are more likely to spend, but they perceive better customer service and are more likely to return.

Small retailers and chains have the ability to do this too, at minimal cost (just a few hundred dollars) so it is deceptively simple to compete with the big guys and hitch your store onto the child friendly retail trend.

I am always amazed talking to retailers who say "But we don't sell things for children" or "We don't want children in our store" or the classic "We don't have parents shopping in our store."

Now, in some rare cases, this is true. I wouldn't take my toddler to Tiffany for example. Or Chanel. Heck, I don't even take myself there! My credit card wouldn't cope. Nor would my husband for that matter ("That postage-stamp sized handbag was HOW much?")

But the vast majority of retailers, from lighting stores to car dealers to clothing boutiques to vet suppliers are selling to parents, whether they like it or not. And parents, whether they like it or not, go shopping with their kids in tow. 88% of parents, in fact, go to the shops accompanied by their little darlings and 91% of them said they had been unable to make a purchase due to distractions from their children.

So my question to retailers is, do you really want to be missing out on 88% of your potential market?

Let's break that down. If one parent leaves your store every day because there is nothing to occupy their children, and your average sale is, say, $50, that's around $18,000 in lost revenue EVERY YEAR.

"Hold on," you say, "I could seriously make an extra $18,000 a year just by putting in a play solution that will cost me a few hundred bucks? I must be crazy! Bring it on. Where can I get one?!"

At least, that's what I would say if I were a retailer. And that's what the good folk at Esprit and Toyota and 700 other retailers have cottoned on to. Especially at Toyota because their average sale is more like $40,000. Even one family leaving the dealership every week without buying is costing Toyota over $2 million every year.

So I put it to you my retailing friends, whether you are selling barbeques or towels or books, the question is not "Why should I put in a play solution?", it's a resounding and very persuasive "Why haven't I?"

After all, you have at least $18,000 worth of reasons to!

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hello 2010 - Are You A Child Friendly Year?

No, no, no . . . it can't be true. February already? Now listen 2010, you're messing with me. Slow down a bit. I need time to write this blog and send e-newsletters and twitter and sell play equipment to savvy retailers and clever doctors and it's impossible to do all that when you insist on marching on so quickly!

If you're like me, the year is racing past and your to-do list is already longer than the queue outside the Myer stocktaking sale a few weeks ago.

Fortunately, the Child Friendly Solutions customers are an organised bunch and we have shipped Play Panels to a lovely long list of shopping centres and medical practices and even a trotting club! I know! Apparently going to the trots is a great day/night out for the family and now you can cheer on your favourite filly at the Bankstown Trotting Club, knowing your toddler is happily and safely occupied with a Child Friendly Play Panel. Giddy up!

New Clients
The latest 'child friendly' gang include:

  • Shepparton Medical Centre
  • Mount Barker Central
  • Dalyellup Family Medical Centre
  • Monkey Mania, Chippendale
  • Stockland Wallsend
  • Stockland Glendale
  • Stockland Bateau Bay
  • Ark Vet, Lindfield
  • Harbour Town West Beach
  • Centro Toombul
  • Sunshine Centre, Greenacres
  • Alice Plaza, Alice Springs
  • Westfield Bondi Junction
  • Onslow Library
  • Union Street Medical Centre, Maclean
  • Frenchville Foodstore
Are you a twit?
Yes, we finally 'tweet'. You can find us at We are tweeting (hopefully!) interesting stuff every day, including retail information, parenting tips, play equipment ideas, inspirational business events I'm attending and sometimes really interesting stuff like what I'm planning to have for lunch (today it'll be tomato & onion tuna on country cheese crackers with a leftover-from-Christmas-shortbread chaser - scintillating huh?)

THE OCCASIONAL TIP - The mess-free way to keep play equipment clean & hygienic
An easy way to keep play equipment clean & hygienic is to use baby wipes! Keep a pack of wipes on hand to quickly wipe down toys or play panels after the child with the chocolate ice-cream cone has left. Quick, mess-free, disposable - love it.

If you're really serious and want the hospital grade variety, Tuffie Wipes, we just happen to sell them. These are the wipes hospitals use to get rid of germs from any and all surfaces. Click here to learn more.

And if you're really, really serious about preventing cross-infection, you should know that hospitals no longer use anti-bacterial sprays on surfaces because apparently the sprays just make the germs airborne. A simple soap-wipe gets rid of them all in one quick swoop. No fancy pants chemicals required. Good to know for home too huh?

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