Supporting Role

Kid Stuff

By Janet Cass

More than one-third of American households include children. According to a 1996 U.S. Census report, 35 percent of households included at least one child under age 18, and 7.5 percent of the total U.S. population was under age 5.

How can your business profit from this? By becoming family-friendly. It doesn't cost much, and you'll turn grateful parents into devoted customers.

To keep kids occupied while their parents shop, have books and toys (none with batteries or tiny parts) on hand. Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, Minnesota, uses a corner away from the store's door and cash register. "Some types of businesses have to accommodate customers with kids," says co-owner Mary Daley, who's "never had complaints" about tots. Daley loses less than $100 annually in kid-damaged merchandise. "Not a meaningful amount," she says, given her $450,000 gross annual sales.

Jackie Kanthak's clothing store, Sprog Togs, also in St. Paul, includes a small box of toys and a rocking horse. Toys don't detract from income-producing floor space because dresses are displayed on a wall above them--still allowing Kanthak to present her merchandise at the customer's eye level.

Here are some easy tips to help make your business more family-friendly:

  • Keep toys with multiple components tidy so no one trips over them.
  • Regularly clean toys and books with disinfectant, making sure they're completely dry before putting them back. Check your state health department for specific guidelines.
  • Display breakable items several feet off the floor to keep them away from inquisitive little fingers.
  • Spend a few extra dollars for electrical-outlet protectors to protect those little fingers.

The payoff for accommodating children? Parents can spend more time--and often more money--in your establishment. Once parents know your business is kid-friendly, you'll achieve what every entrepreneur hopes for: word-of-mouth advertising.

Contact Sources

At Your Service Too, (201) 432-6325,

National Small Business United, (202) 293-8830,

Treadle Yard Goods, 1338 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105, (651) 698-9690

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