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 www.childfriendly.com.au