By Jean Weiss
Grocery shopping can be a boring chore for kids, creating a problem for moms who need to bring their energetic tykes along. Some stores are addressing this issue by creating fun displays aimed at children, organizing educational sessions and creating scavenger hunts to keep kids occupied. Take these suggestions and implement them in your store.
The store: PCC Natural Markets, Seattle
The idea: A "Kid Picks" program lets kids taste and vote on certain foods to determine if the item deserves "Kid Picks" label.
How to implement: Select and designate items for voting (don’t stick strictly to obvious kid-friendly choices – even anchovies have been given the thumbs-up). Have kids sample the food, then vote a yes or no. Up to 30 children can vote, and if two-thirds approve, the item is displayed as a Kid Pick.
Materials needed: Shelf tags, voting materials like rubber stamps
Results: The program has taught kids to be adventurous in trying new foods, and has taught merchandisers and parents that kids may be interested in non-traditional items. One unexpected result is that shoppers without kids have been purchasing Kid Picks.
The idea: Offer a free serving of any fruit or vegetable to kids under 12.
How to implement: The child selects any item from the store's produce section. An employee then washes the item so the child can eat it right then and there.
Materials needed: Water
Results: The free serving offers children a chance to explore fruits and vegetables. Parents love this program because they sense they are getting good value and it allows their child to choose. Plus, the program gives their child a task to complete, followed by a distraction while they eat the free food - letting mom shop a little more peacefully.
The store: Sunflower Farmers Market, Rocky Mountains and Southwest regions
The idea: Online kids' education program.
How to implement: Offer a kids' link on your website that provides nutrition information kid-friendly eating tips, lunch ideas and the yummiest fruits and veggies to buy. Offer coloring activities that encourage interest in healthy food.
Materials needed: Downloadable PDFs of nutrition information.
Results: Parents get easy tips for preparing fruits and vegetables and kids become more willing to eat them. Families begin to regard your store as a nutrition resource.
The idea: Package colorful dried fruits and nuts in clear containers and to achieve the look of a candy store.
How to implement: Instead of stashing these see-through packages on a linear shelf, place them on square display, so colorful fruits and nuts are visible and at a child's eye level.
Materials needed: Clear plastic containers, center-of-floor displays.
Results: As children navigate your store, they are naturally drawn to these colorfully packaged dried fruit and nut containers.
The store: Whole Foods Market, nationwide
The idea: Start a Kids Club in which children up to age 12 receive an ID card that allows one free treat per store visit, up to a value of $1.99 retail price.
How to implement: The store offers three items to select from each day, linked to a brand promotion, and displays a Kids Club tag on the item. Children go to the customer service desk to see what their three choices are, and then set off to find them throughout the store. Offer at least one non-processed healthy option for parents wishing to steer their children in that direction.
Materials needed: Kids Club tags, membership cards for the kids, items to promote.
Results: This program is popular among kids and adults and is an outlet for a child to explore products. It also engages the child while the parent shops.
The idea: Offer shopping carts for children.
How to implement: Store small carts near adult carts, so it is easy for parents and children to find them.
Materials needed: Most stores have an inventory of about five kid-sized carts.
Results: Kids love rushing around the store with their carts. Some parents let their children select their own lunch or snack items to carry in the cart. One bonus is that kid carts give children a chance to shop and make choices about products they want, and parents sometimes end up buying more than they’d originally planned.
The store: The Wedge, Minneapolis
The idea: Bend the rules for kids.
How to implement: Even if you don’t allow adults to eat product before purchase, go ahead and let kids do this. Do everything you can to help the parents of unruly children get in and out fast by offering extra help selecting and running for items, bagging their groceries and helping them to their cars. Offer privacy in your conference rooms for nursing or pumping and soothing babies and hold groceries if parents need to go home or take a time-out.
Materials needed: Conference room, attentive personnel.
Results: Parents and children feel tended to. Parents of young children feel welcome and are more likely to return.
The idea: Samples and edible displays for kids
How to implement: Have food samples that appeal to children in every section of the store. Make cute animals out of unusually shaped fruits and veggies and stash them throughout the store.
Materials needed: Fruits, vegetables, food samples.
Results: Kids love investigating where the food samples are, and are distracted while their parents shop. They enjoy the oddly shaped food displays, which teach them to have fun with food.
The store: Hunger Mountain, Montpelier, Vt.
The idea: Offer in-store workshops on topics for children.
How to implement: Provide workshops on that are foods interesting to children. For example, recently the store offered a workshop about kid tested/approved nut butters.
Materials needed: Depends on the workshop, but workshops are advertised online and in fliers within the store.
Results: The workshops offer kids and their parents information about how to make healthy foods appeal to younger consumers.
The idea: Offer kids' activities at special store events
How to implement: Provide seasonal child-oriented activities, such as pumpkin painting for Halloween, seed planting for Earth Day, or animals for petting for the beginning of Spring.
Materials needed: Materials vary.
Results: By including younger people in their cooperative community, the store is acknowledging their customers' children and fostering interest in the next generation of co-op owners.
The store: Trader Joe’s, nationwide
The idea: Offer incentives such as balloons and stickers at the checkout line.
How to implement: Cashiers and baggers give children stickers and a Trader Joe balloon once they’ve shopped with their parent.
Materials needed: Balloons, balloon inflator, stickers.
Results: This program provides a popular and cost-effective incentive to get children in the store. It’s also a reward for a child who has cooperated during the grocery shop. Sometimes balloons get lost in the parking lot, so coach clerks and baggers need to be attentive.
The idea: Hide an item, such as a small stuffed animal, within the store so children can scavenger hunt while parents shop.
How to implement: The child brings the hidden item, once found, to the customer service desk for a prize, such as a sticker. Then the child re-hides the item for other children to find.
Materials needed: Small item to hide, prizes.
Results: This has been a fun program that has, in some cases, motivated children to beg their parents to go shopping. Children are occupied with a task while parents are able to shop.