Stores find that kids can be scarier than a bull in a china shop

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Oct 29, 2018
Bob Phibbs

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doctor’s blog.

It’s tough to take small children into new places and expect them to behave like adults when they naturally want to explore. But it is also tough for retailers to deal with parents who have no boundaries for their children’s curiosity. A run-amok kid ruins everyone’s day.

I polled my Facebook followers to ask for their tips about dealing with kids in their stores. On one side, a few retailers offered stories, which to me didn’t build bonds but drew battle lines.

One owner of a tiny shop told a woman spanking her child one recent weekend, “I’m sorry to ask this, but perhaps you can return at a time when the kids are having a better day.”

This retailer has zero tolerance and feels parents should know better, that her shop is a place of business, not a daycare center. And let’s be honest, some parents use a retail store as a place to park the kids while they do other shopping or have services performed.

How, then, should you deal with kids who could disrupt your business?

  • Engage. When you greet every shopper with an open heart and try to make a connection with not only the parents but the kids, you proactively keep the child from being bored as most of the items in your store aren’t going to appeal to them.
  • Ask the parent’s permission. Before giving a gift to a child, always ask the parent for permission so they see you as an ally.
  • Give the child a distraction. While picture books, coloring books or toys are good, bubble wrap might just be the most fun and free distraction you can give any kid. Plus, kids can be entertained with bubble wrap on their own.

The key is in planning ahead for how to deal with children. One Facebook responder said it best: “If we don’t want families shopping online from the safety of their homes to avoid stink eyes and such, then we better figure out how to embrace all our customers.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What advice do you have for managing kids in a store environment? What techniques used by associates and managers to suppress or minimize such situations are fairly common, yet inappropriate?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Love me, love my kids! Instead of dreading children in your store, look for ways to make them comfortable. "
"As a retail strategist and a parent, I’m all about purposeful distraction tools—it’s a very important piece of the customer experience strategy if kids are often in tow..."
"Give a daycare option and watch the parents drop off their kids so they can shop in peace."

Join the Discussion!

7 Comments on "Stores find that kids can be scarier than a bull in a china shop"


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Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust
Laura Davis-Taylor
Chief Strategy Officer, InReality
1 year 7 months ago
We worked on a project where we built a spot in the store for customers to ask a designated employee questions, get on a computer to do some research and maybe even dig for inspiration. We ensured that the kids were kept busy by creating a few digital children’s games on adjacent screens. I kid you not, people started leaving their children in the area and taking off to shop solo—and this is a BIG STORE. Point is people often should know better, but they either don’t or don’t care. As a retail strategist and a parent, I’m all about purposeful distraction tools—it’s a very important piece of the customer experience strategy if kids are often in tow in your stores. Done right, it can actually be a huge lure–for both parents and kids. However, if nothing is working and things are truly getting out of control, intervention is important. Parents that know better and care DO control their children—or leave until they can be controlled. Those that don’t are very likely not the ones… Read more »
Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
Being a retailer before I had children made me hyper aware of how they needed to behave in stores. Unfortunately, there are plenty of parents out there who think it’s perfectly acceptable to let their children treat stores like the local playground. It’s not easy to shop with kids. It’s one thing if the child is contained in a shopping cart, and another when they are not. A mother’s stress increases when she finds herself faced with associates who openly wince when they see children touching merchandise or when she is faced with awful signs like “Letting your kids touch our merchandise will result in bad karma” or “Unruly children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.” We agree, Bob, that retailers should greet all shoppers with an open heart, but this isn’t always the case. We have too many horror stories to list from consumers in our focus groups about how their even well-behaved children were treated in stores. It’s better for the retailer to have a plan. And to train associates… Read more »
Sky Rota
BrainTrust
1 year 7 months ago

I’m 14 yrs old and have witnessed the poor behavior of kids today. Let’s be honest, it’s not the kids it’s the parents. My parents are older and tolerate nothing from my four siblings and myself. We know the rules and follow them wherever we go. The only place I see tons of kids entering and having no problems whatsoever is the gym. I go to Lifetime Fitness and they have a daycare where moms and dads are coming in dropping off three kids at a time so they can workout in peace. I can only see this solution working in big mall areas. Give a daycare option and watch the parents drop off their kids so they can shop in peace. Yes, I know it’s not a common practice for shopping because no one has done it, but why not try? It’s hugely successful in gyms. Kids and parents are happy, it’s a win-win.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

When I was in the department store business, I hated the fact that my stores complained because of icy roads and snow. But isn’t that a fact of life for many retailers? I would always tell the managers to be glad for the customers who did come in, and to make the best of it and sell something. When shoppers were in the stores with children, that was always, and still is, a good thing. Some stores built kids “corrals” with two staff members as attendants. Always two. Each child was given a bracelet that matched numbers with the bracelet on the parent. These “corrals” were far from any entrance, but certainly easily visible for parents. Areas like this required insurance. Was it worth it? We certainly had our share of thrilled customers who understood that their children were just as important to us as they were.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Somehow, we have lost the sense of responsibility to manage our offspring. Retailers should have zero tolerance for disruptive kids, just like for disruptive adults.

Scott Norris
Guest

When I managed an office-supply/teacher-supply store here in Minnesota back in the early 1990s, we had a lot of great merchandise with broad family appeal (stickers, workbooks, art supplies) but not a lot of family traffic despite our location in a strip mall with grocery, drug, hair, and auto services. I tried several experiments like “Saturday Morning Storytime” and educational game events — and yes, I did see a small but measurable uptick in traffic and eventually repeat business, but oh brother! I already had the right kind of staff (a lot of retired teachers/teaching students) but yes, I needed someone dedicated to managing the kids and not being at the register or working the floor. And what we ultimately found after a couple months was that too many kids were being ditched in our store so the parents could shop for groceries down the mall — I pulled the plug as we weren’t insured for that, or being paid to be child care!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Maybe I’m just a Monday morning grump, but it seems curious that “asking them to leave” isn’t mentioned as an option. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that’s always the best approach, only that it can be (in extreme situations). And if a retailer doesn’t because of some fear they’ll be harassed on Yelp — or wherever — then get over it … it’s your store, not theirs.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Love me, love my kids! Instead of dreading children in your store, look for ways to make them comfortable. "
"As a retail strategist and a parent, I’m all about purposeful distraction tools—it’s a very important piece of the customer experience strategy if kids are often in tow..."
"Give a daycare option and watch the parents drop off their kids so they can shop in peace."

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