Retailers are using baby care centers to target young families in the midst of developing strong preferences -- both in what they buy and where they shop.
While women are starting families later in life than they did 20 years ago, the majority are still having children at relatively young ages. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Md., 81% of births in 1996 were to women between the ages of 18 and 34. Within that group, one-third were ages 25 to 29.
With about 4 million births each year and more than 10 million people with children under the age of two, it behooves retailers to pay attention to the baby category, says Thomas McLemore, director of marketing for Lamaze Publishing, Darien, Conn.
"New parents typically have never experienced products in the baby category. They are very open to messages and promotions," McLemore said.
"Studies have shown that if they latch onto a product early on, they will stick with it 80% of the time. They are brand-loyal when it comes to a child," he continued.
McLemore cited Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla. -- which offers baby clubs, newsletters and couponing -- as a chain that has taken a lead in targeting new parents.
As reported in SN, stores such as Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, have been working diligently to create destination categories for new parents. And other large chains have expanded baby aisles or created baby care centers.
For example, this month Supervalu's Northeast region gave a presentation to its retailers on a new baby care center concept. The wholesaler wants all its stores to establish destination stops, said Cheryl Robertson, spokeswoman for Supervalu in Belle Vernon, Pa. About 160 retailers attended the presentation, though none has launched the program yet.
"Our goal is to attract new parents into the stores and capitalize on their tendency to become loyal shoppers and spend more per trip," she said.
Although the program is targeted at large stores, Minneapolis-based Supervalu hopes that smaller units will downscale the program and offer as full an assortment as possible.
"We are suggesting retailers establish a store-within-a-store," Robertson said. The program includes decorative signage; all baby care categories in a central location; easy access to staple items, such as diapers, wipes, formula and food; peggable infant accessories brand-blocked by vendors; and a stocked unisex diaper-changing station.
In larger stores, Supervalu is encouraging retailers to carry 8- or 12-foot sections of baby clothing.
Supervalu's general-merchandise and distribution group in the Northeast region developed the concept based on data that shows young mothers choose a store for its selection and pricing of baby care items.
Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., is another chain putting more emphasis on young adults. "We've always paid attention to young families," noted Frank Puleo, director of grocery. "But in new stores and remodels, we are giving baby more space."
Genuardi's is the major sponsor of a local-area Baby Expo that attracts some 30,000 people each year. This April it will share 28 booths with some of its major vendors as well as use the Expo forum to promote its stores and private-label products.
"The target market is mothers with infants or toddlers," said Alan Tempest, director of marketing services. Some of the product sampling will include juices, cereals, apple sauce and baby products.
The 18- to 34-years-old demographic with children is important because of the size of its shopping basket, said Rick Kanter, group vice president for retailer services at Spectra, Chicago.
Spectra takes data from information sources like ACNielsen, Schaumburg, Ill., and Information Resources Inc., Chicago, as well as frequent-shopping data, and graphs them for retailers targeting specific stores or clusters of stores. Some of the chains Spectra works with include Kroger Co., Winn-Dixie Stores, Albertson's, Ahold, Randalls Food Markets, Safeway and Wal-Mart Stores.
Kanter estimated that 75% of large chains nationwide are targeting 18- to 34-year-olds with baby care centers.
Three of the most important factors in target marketing are age, presence of children and ethnicity, said Kanter. He is seeing a new sense of urgency among retailers to increase their efforts at targeting shopping segments.