Food Forum: Family affair

Retailers can benefit from making the shopping environment safe and comfortable for parents and their children.

By Paul Giampavolo

Shopping with infants and children is a normal part of American life and presents significant opportunities for retailers. People who shop with children represent a growing market segment that should not be overlooked. According to The Nielsen Co., people who shop with children under the age of 6 account for 12% of supermarket store traffic. Add in the people who shop with kids ages 6 to 12 and the store traffic number jumps up to 31%. New moms and dads who shop with infants can account for as much as 5% of store traffic. The share of grocery revenue these segments represent is even higher and accounts for 36%. When it comes to catering to this group of shoppers supermarkets are on track with product offerings to fill every imaginable want and need of families with kids. But what about the shopping experience itself?

Shopping with children can sometimes be an adventure and it is well known that as long as kids behave, parents will shop longer and buy more. This simple yet powerful fact should not be overlooked; retailers should be embracing it.

The first thing that parents encounter when they arrive at the store is the shopping cart. This is where the shopping experience can get off to a good or not-so-good start. Is the cart clean and inviting? Is there a working seat belt?

If mom or dad has an infant carrier in their hand, will they try balancing it precariously on the seat and handle portion or put it in the basket? Either way spells problems for retailers. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, some 20,000 injuries occur each year involving shopping carts and children less than 5 years of age. The majority of them—some 82% to be exact—can be prevented by having a working seat belt that meets industry standards.

Earlier this year, on the heels of mounting injuries and a tragic death, warnings were added to shopping carts to alert consumers not to place their personal infant carriers or car seats directly on the shopping cart. Despite the new warnings, most parents still place their car seat atop the shopping cart. This practice results in some 5% of all shopping- related injuries.

Statistics aside, it is inconvenient for parents to have to search through a line of carts to find a working restraint, be expected to carry their infant or leave their baby at home. If you do not think this is important,  just look at the mommy blogs. Moms are obsessing with having working seat belts on shopping carts and warning each other on a daily basis not to put their carriers on carts.

Fortunately there are some very simple steps retailers can take to help their customers have a safe and wonderful shopping experience. Seat belts should be inspected and replaced as needed. This quick and inexpensive step puts stores in compliance with standards and is a good safety practice. More importantly, this goes a long way at making a powerful first impression with moms and dads.

Regarding shopping with an infant, new infant carrier docking stations are now available and allow the carrier to go from the car to the cart without even waking the baby. For the small percentage of shoppers that do not have a car seat with them or leave it anchored in the car, commercial infant seats that are permanently mounted to the cart are very safe and have been used in supermarkets since the 1980s.

For toddlers and older kids there are a variety of child carrier and shopping cart combinations. These products are all very popular with shoppers. They are safe and cater to the family segment. The most popular model accommodates children of all ages and adults. These cart and carriers nest to save space and expand the shopping cart’s capacity. More room for a growing family to stock up is a win-win for families and retailers.

These safety and convenience items at first blush might be viewed as relatively insignificant items, but they have a big impact on people who shop with kids and a bigger impact on the bottom line for retailers. 

Paul Giampavolo is an expert on shopping cart safety. He is Chairman of ASTM’s Consumer Products Executive Subcommittee, which oversees all Consumer Product standard activities, Subcommittee Chairman of ASTM’s Shopping Cart Subcommittee, recipient of a Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman’s Commendation in 1996 for significant contributions to product safety. Giampavolo founded Safe-Strap Co. in 1983 and pioneered the use of shopping cart seat belts to help reduce shopping cart related injuries.

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