Monday, August 27, 2012

Child Friendly Is Off To The Show!

No, not THAT show. The other show. The Retail Expo & Conference!

It's been four years since we last exhibited at Retail Expo and I must admit, I'm really looking forward to it.

What's not to love about an Expo? You get to speak in person to your suppliers (something that is becoming rarer in the age of the tweet!), check out all the fabulous new products and services for your industry, listen to some inspiring presentations that are sure to inject some serious motivation into your business, and eat the Minties and Fantales off other people's stands (because other people's lolly bowls are always so much better than your own!)

So where is all this motivation and lolly-eating going down? At the Sydney Convention Centre in Darling Harbour from 24-26 September. We will be at Stand B13 with our excellent range of play equipment specifically designed for retail stores.

So if you've been thinking about what you can do to keep customers with children in your store so they will actually have the opportunity of buying something from your store, come down to see us, say hello, and look over our wall mounted play panels and other clever ideas for keeping children entertained.

(And also? We'll have Tim Tams!)

See you there :)

Esprit - a great example of a retailer who knows how to keep their customers in store spending.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Medical Waiting Room Play Areas - Dos and Don'ts

Calling all medical practices and hospitals! It's time to ban the box of one-armed Barbie dolls and sad looking teddies.

You know how important it is to create a safe, hygienic area for children in your practice waiting area. However you may not be aware that it is a requirement of the RACGP Standards for General Practice that your practice waiting area caters for the specific needs of children.*

You might also not be aware that the toys in your waiting area could be making children a tad more 'germy' than they already are. Back in 2004, we sent off a couple of toys from a medical waiting room to a lab for testing. The results were just a tiny bit scary with staphylococci and dangerous coliforms found on all toys, one of which was of a strain resistant to antibiotics. Eeeek! 
(If you're a details-person, you can read the full report here.)

So do you still have a box of wonky plastic blocks, dog-eared books and broken Buzz Lightyears in your practice but are not sure how to create a safe, hygienic play area for children?

Our company has helped hospitals such as Sydney Children’s, Westmead, RNSH, as well as over 300 medical practices around Australia to create safe, hygienic, tidy play areas so we’ve seen it all!

Below are some ideas you can implement in your practice to ensure that you’re not only providing a ‘best practice’ play area in your waiting room, but also conforming to accreditation standards.

  • Provide play equipment that conforms to Australian Standards
  • Ensure the play equipment is of durable, commercial quality so it doesn’t break within a week or two
  • Install play equipment that is self-contained & firmly fixed to avoid choking or tripping hazards
  • Bring in toys from home – they are not safe or durable
  • Provide toys that your reception staff need to constantly tidy – it’s an unproductive use of their time
  • Provide toys that can’t be cleaned easily and daily – too long between cleans is a cross-infection risk
And of course, you know where to go for Australia's best supply of waiting-room-friendly play equipment. Child Friendly Solutions of course! (as if you had to ask :))

* Criterion 5.1.1 Practice Facilities, Indicator H. RACGP Standards for General Practice 4th Edition, Oct 2010, pg 101.
Image courtesy of brittanaslove
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 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Small Business Tips - Selling, Cold Calling & Other Unsavoury Tasks

Ah . . . if only cold calling was this easy!
I hate cold calling. Doesn't everyone? Well, almost everyone. There is that rare breed of career salesperson who just loves getting on the phone. They don't mind the rejection because they see every 'no' as a step closer to a 'yes'.

I am not that person. I don't like it. Not one little bit. I'd rather staple my hand to the desk than pick up that phone.

But then I didn't like getting up in the middle of cold winter nights to feed my baby either but guess what? I did it. Because that baby depended on me for sustenance.

Well, Child Friendly Solutions has been my other 'baby' for over 10 years and, like any small business, it needs sustenance too and the thing that feeds it is sales.

Fortunately our business is now in a position where it can survive on internet sales. We have become the most skilled order takers on the planet. But do we want to just survive? No. We want to grow this business. It needs to feed two families! Pressure much?

When we first started the business, my original business partner was our sales guru. She was that rare breed I mentioned above, able to pick up a phone and make a sales appointment without breaking a sweat. (Or finding forty other VERY IMPORTANT THINGS that needed doing before picking up the phone, like me, Mrs Procrastinator!)

But our core business is built on those original sales to all of those lovely corporate clients and hundreds of small business customers. And if we want to continue to grow, we need to continue to pick up the phone.

Would you like the good news now?

It's not as hard as you think. Here's my trick. When you call that perfectly nice stranger who probably has zero tolerance for pushy sales people and zero time to waste, don't sell to them.

That's it. Don't. Sell. 

Instead, your objective is to get them agree to receive some information. Believe me, they will be so happy that you're not trying to 'sell' to them, they will happily hand over their email address and quite possibly their first born.

That's when you get creative. By all means, send them information by email. But if you don't hear back, follow up with a physical mailer. Everyone loves receiving something in the mail, especially with a handwritten envelope which they are more likely to open. We sometimes pop in something fun like a bag of snakes they can share around the office or a chocolate egg if it's Easter.

The other critical step is to stay in touch with that customer every 90 days or less, whether it be by phone call, email, snail mail or social media. Send them an article, let them know about an industry event, retweet one of their tweets, but just stay in touch. This will ensure that when they're ready to buy, you'll be front of mind and not a distant memory.

The guru on the 90 day technique is Wendy Evans. Her book, How To Get New Business In 90 Days & Keep It Forever, is the most dog-eared, highlighted, scribbled-on business book in my library.

Now I'm the first to admit, this stuff is hard to get going on and difficult to sustain. So were those midnight feeds! But if the result is a sustainable business with a strong sale pipeline and regular revenue, it's worth it.

And now that my real baby is growing into a toddler, it really is time I started taking my own advice and start feeding my business baby again.

Hello telephone old friend . . . . 

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

Monday, March 19, 2012

8 Reasons You Need This Speaker At Your Retail Conference

Well it's that time of year when all you retailers out there are planning your annual conferences. 

What band will you dance the night away to at the gala dinner? Will you serve kool mints or minties during workshop sessions? And perhaps more importantly, who will be in your speaker line up?

The latest retail trend being embraced by Australian retailers such as Westpac, Big W and Esprit is Family Friendly Retailing. So what is it and why are these major retailers implementing Family Friendly practices in their retail environments?

Michelle Barraclough is Australia's leading expert on Family Friendly Retailing. With over 10 years helping major Australian retailers such as K-Mart, Myer, NIB, Westfield and Esprit to attract and retain customers who shop with children, she has a wealth of knowledge to impart to retail audiences on this important trend.

So what will your audience of experienced conference-goers learn that they've never learned before?
  1. The 4 benefits of becoming a Family Friendly retailer:
    - increasing sales
    - improving customer service
    - attracting & retaining customers
    - reducing stock damage
  2. Examples from major Australian retailers who have become family friendly including Esprit, Toyota, Westfield, Sydney Airport and more
  3. How any retailer, large or small, can become family friendly
  4. What works & what definitely doesn’t
  5. How to create a family friendly environment that is safe & won’t impose on store design or space
  6. How to use a child friendly space as a visual merchandise opportunity
  7. Your legal and OH&S responsibilities regarding children in store
  8. Tips for training staff on how to deal with children (and their parents!) in store, including how to turn browsers into buyers.
In other words, your audience will get a swag of ideas they can take back to their stores and implement immediately, as well as loads of inspiration from the case studies on retailers who are already incorporating family friendly practices in their stores.

Here's what happy clients said about Michelle's presentations:

"Michelle's presentation was excellent. She was able to capture the attention of all participants and they came away from the session revitalised and inspired"
ENS International
"Michelle, you were a really popular speaker and received the highest evaluation across all the two days of sessions I believe. Every respondent rated you as Excellent (84%) or Very Good (16%), which is a real testament to the useful, practical content of your message and your ability to get the information across in an informative and engaging manner."
Barbara Sullivan, Director, Import Export Show

So what are you waiting for? Call me to book Michelle or to find out more about Michelle's unique presentation.

 You can phone me on (02) 9984 0769 or email me at


Monday, March 5, 2012

Kee Bee Play Panels

Here at Child Friendly Solutions we are always on the lookout for new products for our discerning clients.

But we have to be fairly rigorous in deciding which products fit the bill. Every product we offer must be:
  • Commercial quality
  • Durable
  • Conform to Australian Standards
  • Make us go "ooh aah"
The Kee Bee Play Panels from Canada fit the bill and we're pleased to announce that we've added the Kee Bee line to our range.

We like Kee Bee products because they are a little bit different from our own Play Panels and will suit unsupervised environments. They are fabricated from solid wood products and finished with conversion enamel coatings for durability and ease of maintenance.

So without further ado, meet some of the fabulous Kee Bee modular wall mounted play panels.

Monster Blocks - Flip the blocks to create funny looking monsters

Space Trek - move the space balls through wormhole tracks seeking planetary destinations

Robot Factory - turn different sized gears to see how cause and effect works

Lady Bug Lane - rotate this Roundabout maze to help the bugs find their way home
You purchase each Play Panel as an individual module, or put them altogether into a super-duper wall system like this one:

You can find the full range of Kee Bee products here or contact Kelly at our office to have a chat about what's possible on (02) 9984 0769 or

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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Play Panel Gets A Makeover

So the thing about creating one of Australia's most popular commercial play products is that it's . . . y'know . . . popular. And when I say popular, I mean popular in the way that a t-bone steak is popular in the lion enclosure at the zoo. Extremely.

Because the users of our Play Panels are generally under the age of six and, boy oh boy, they are one tough crowd. They kick, lick and climb that Play Panel. They twist, bang and thump it. They are made to be tough and durable, sure, and it's just as well.

Some of our Play Panels have been in client's stores, such as Westpac, Koorong and Esprit, coming up to 6 years which is an amazing life cycle given how much wear and tear they've sustained. But some of them are starting to look a little, shall we say, tired and in need of a little makeover.

To that end, we've introduced two initiatives to make the Play Panel even more durable and ensure our clients get the best life possible from their purchase. 

Stronger Poles
If you have a Play Panel, you'll know all about the kids who try to climb the poles. They are not meant to be climbed, but try telling a 3 year old boy that those 3 poles are NOT the rungs of a ladder! Yes, we failed to put a 3 year old boy on our product advisory committee. Our mistake.

But what all those small, climbing people out there have told us through their actions over the years, is that the poles need to be stronger so that they don't pop out or break.

So that's what we've done. Made 'em tougher than a steak cooked by my nanna. Take that 3 year old boys of the world! 

Proper Printing
When little nails go round and round the phone dial, or the panels are in a moist environment like a swim school, the paper backing behind the dial and the clock and gears can deteriorate over time.

We've now silk printed all graphics directly onto the plastic so they can't be scratched, torn, licked or rubbed off, no matter how hard a child jabs them with a piece of lego! 

How To Upgrade Your Panel
If you have a Play Panel that is in need of some TLC, you can order these new parts starting from $11.50 per part.

The good news is that the dial and all the poles can all be replaced. The bad news is that the clock and gears panels are impossible to remove and replace without destroying the panel. But the other good news is that you can replace your entire Play Panel with a brand new one and we'll give all repeat customers a 10% discount until Feb 29 to do so.

If you'd like new parts or a whole spanking brand new Play Panel using this special discount, please call Kelly on (02) 9984 0769 or email

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hello 2012, we have great expectations of you

Francesca's new year's 'hope' is to give Mummy some time to work (yeah right!)

Hello, hi, happy new year!

We had a lovely break over here at Child Friendly Solutions HQ. Since we're based on Sydney's gorgeous northern beaches we don't really need to go anywhere. Beaches, cafes, galleries, markets - it's all here. Apart from a brief pre-Christmas sojourn to Melbourne, I holidayed at home, riding my new bike (an unexpected gift from the family), reading three nail-biting novels on my new e-reader, admiring the Lego work of 8 year old Jack and teaching Francesca to play with the sand, not eat it. Lovely!

We've also made some important New Year's Resolutions (well, let's just call them New Year's Hopes shall we?!)

First up, we're going to be blogging more often this year. Last year, both Kelly and I were wrangling new babies which, as adorable as they are, led to a SLIGHT downturn in productivity. Ahem. We kept up with customer orders and admin, but all the extra stuff like blogging took a backseat to feeding, changing, washing, playing, wiping up lots of mashed banana and scraping squashed sultanas off leather sofas!

So this year, now that the babies are perfectly behaved, well adjusted toddlers able to entertain themselves for hours on end (???), we will be bringing you more news and new products, helpful information and special offers.

We'll also be sharing more about our business. After all, we've been selling these simple little Play Panels for 10 years now and we're still going strong. In fact, I've been speaking to audiences about some of our successes in exporting, marketing and social media, as we've learnt a thing or two about running a small business over the years. If we can share something that helps your business, then that will make us happy!

We're also committed to improving our products and our range, to ensure that our customers are getting safe, strong, durable products that will withstand anything a Ribena-fuelled toddler can throw at them!

Stand by for a great special offer on Play Panels in February. And if you have any feedback about our website, blog or products, we'd love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, would you like to 'Like' us on Facebook? Just click here . . .

Have a wonderful 2012 everyone. My final 'hope' is that your New Year's Hopes become a reality too.

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