Doing it for the kids

Although retail in general is becoming ever-more customer centric and targeted towards niche groups, it seems as if one large group of consumers is still often neglected - kids. In my experience, most toy shops are still content to simply pile as much product into their stores as possible (often as high as possible beyond the reach of tiny hands) with the focus firmly on price. Unfortunately, most children in shops are simply considered a nuisance (’don’t touch that’, ‘breakages payable’) - a strange way for childrens’ retailers to treat their key customer base. True, it is often the adults who end up ultimately paying for the product, but surely retailers of childrens’ products could only benefit from thinking like kids. Making their stores exciting destinations where children play and interact with the products will surely encourage repeat visits by both parents and children in the future.

Fairy castle at the new Disney concept

Fairy castle at the new Disney concept

It seems as if Disney has also realised this. Its new Disney Store format being rolled out across Europe and North America is a shift away from simply selling shelf-upon-shelf of merchandise and instead focuses on enhancing the Disney brand and creating a ‘magical’ experience. As such, a significant amount of floor space has been given over to non-selling events - a fairytale castle, a magic mirror, a Cars-themed garage, a mini-theatre - all aimed with kids in mind. Even though there is less actual merchandise on sale, Disney believes that the stores will have a halo effect on its brand as a whole - even though a family enters the store, has an enjoyable experience and leaves without buying anything, they are much more likely to return in the future - or even go see a Disney film.

Other great examples of retailers thinking like kids:

1. Imaginarium

I saw this on a recent trip to Spain and loved the idea of a shop having a separate smaller door for children - how could a kid not want to enter the store after seeing that.

Imaginarium has a big and small entrance

Imaginarium has a big and small entrance

2. Build-A-Bear Workshop

What a great concept for children of all ages. You get to choose your bear, watch it be stuffed and then accessorise it. You even get a birth certificate for your bear.

Putting stuffing in a bear

Putting stuffing in a bear

3. Happy LAWSON

LAWSON in Japan has opened a handful of convenience stores tailored towards children and their parents. This child-friendly store sells food, toys and books and offers up to two hours of childcare. The outlet is designed to offer a convenient and comfortable place families shopping with children. As a result, the store is built with more space than conventional stores, including space for a children’s play area, baby chair space and cafe. Meanwhile, LAWSON has tied up with Dick Bruna and adopted Miffy as a symbol of the store.

Happy LAWSON is tailored to children and parents

Happy LAWSON is tailored to children and parents

Some things to consider when selling to kids:

- Shop the store as if you are a child - ie. low shelving, easy to reach merchandising, low checkouts so they can pay etc 

- Make life easy for the parents - changing facilities, room to manoeuvre a pram etc

- Allow kids to interact and play with products/displays instore. It doesn’t matter how child friendly the store is, if all the products are packed away in boxes, they’ll quickly get bored

- Small shopping trolleys/baskets designed for children is a great way to get them involved in the shopping trip - and keep them occupied at the same time

- Research suggests that even in grocery stores, children have ‘hot spots’ where they like to spend time (eg cereal aisle). Maybe having more children-specific promotions or features in these areas would be beneficial for all retailers

- Even hypermarkets can offer creche and play area facilities to aid parents while they shop. In Asia, most hypermarkets are quite happy for children to play or read books while their parents shop. I’ve even seen children riding bikes round the aisles in hypermarkets in Korea! And I took the following photo in a Korean hypermarket as well. In Europe, a security guard would have dispersed this scene long ago - “You can’t read that without buying it!”

Children in Korean hypermarket

Children in Korean hypermarket

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