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Bull in a China Shop?

If that's how parents feel bringing kids into your store, they'll pass you by.

Shopping at Heirlooms of Oldenburg in Oldenburg, Indiana, used to be a stressful experience for families. According to owner Shawn Holtel, 37, parents would clutch their children and leave after a few minutes, fearful of the combination of kids and the breakable, expensive antiques, home accessories and collectibles in the store.

Holtel decided the solution was to cater to a much younger crowd. So she set up a kids' table, stocked with puzzles, coloring books and toys, that's visible from most of the retail floor. She also widened aisles to make them stroller-friendly, eliminated sharp edges, and put delicate and consigned items out of reach in display cases.

"Now, parents stay longer in the store," Holtel explains. "They're not afraid of the children breaking things, and I've definitely seen a positive difference in their buying."

, president of Retailworks, a retail design and consulting firm in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, believes that smart retailers don't discount the influence kids have on shopping. Falk recommends creating a small "safe haven" with items to entertain children, such as toys or DVDs. Says Falk, "If children are occupied and within a parent's view, the parent will spend up to 20 percent longer in the store and will spend more [money]."

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bull in a China Shop?.

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