Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson spoke with Brendan Cherry, VP and general manager, Koala Kare Products, about best practices and products for making spaces child-friendly, focusing on a crucial amenity: baby-changing stations.
Why should retail stores, restaurants and shopping centers invest in making their environments child-friendly?
Simply put, it is a great business decision. Independent research continually reconfirms that parents are more loyal, spend more money and shop longer at facilities that provide baby-changing stations. Providing baby-changing stations and safe and sanitary amenities show you care about them and the parents’ experience in your store. In today’s business environment, these amenities assure parents don’t take their business elsewhere.
What should retailers know with regards to baby-changing stations?
Due diligence pays off. There are major differences in baby-changing stations today. Be sure the product you buy is ASTM-certified to the latest industry safety standards and has an antimicrobial bed to inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria. Finally, it is key that the manufacturer has effective support in terms of repair parts and maintenance programs to maintain the station for years to come.
From the consumer’s point of view, how important a concern is sanitation with regards to the same?
Research shows sanitation is the parent’s No. 1 concern. That’s why Koala stresses effective maintenance and sanitation procedures, encourages the use of bed liners and exclusively provides Microban compounds in the plastic bed surface. Despite these efforts, operators still need to integrate proactive sanitation and cleaning procedures for the station into their overall restroom maintenance regimen.
How can retailers and other operators reassure parents that these products are sanitary?
One of the simplest ways to show patrons that the station has been sanitized is to keep it stocked with bed liners. Like toilet seat covers, it shows the patron that someone is doing more than simply wiping down the exterior.
How often should retailers update this type of equipment?
We at Koala are proud to say that a properly maintained station can last for generations! I’ve know of several early model Koalas from the mid-80s still in use. But a good rule of thumb is to change it out upon a remodel or when you feel the station no longer positively projects your brand. We’ve recently updated the decor options in baby-changing stations.
What other products does Koala Kare offer for the retail and restaurant environment?
Koala Kare has taken the same commitment to quality, safety and sanitation to child-seating products: high chairs, booster chairs and infant carrier cradles. Our Designer High Chair passes the latest safety standards in both the United States and Europe. To my knowledge, it is the only commercial model that does.
We also make child protection seats, which can be placed in either the dressing room or handicap stall to keep small children up and out of the way. This is often an overlooked amenity that parents are constantly praising us for offering.
What’s new at Koala Kare in the way of products?
We are introducing a new booster chair for the foodservice industry. It is the first booster to be designed with the child in mind. Everything on the market today is a glorified telephone book.
What advice do you have for retailers and other operators in making spaces child-friendly?
Parents bring their children everywhere. They expect your operation to consider their children’s needs. I recommend operators do a top-to-bottom review of amenities, sanitation and safety. Proper planning will logically lead you to an environment where parents will want to take their business. Koala’s national account team stands willing to assist operators with this type of review.