This week's story about Caroline’s Cart, a new shopping cart designed to carry disabled children and adults, raises many interesting points about the supermarket industry — its relationship with consumers and the role it plays in society.
First of all, while I don’t normally plug products — whether for-sale or store equipment like this shopping cart — I will make an exception here: Every store should offer at least one. (Rest assured, I have no ties to the company.) It’s encouraging that a number of food retailers have already begun carrying the cart since its introduction last October, and interest is rapidly growing.
Caroline’s Cart addresses a significant segment of society that doesn’t often get the attention it deserves. Most importantly, it enables parents with disabled children to include them on grocery shopping trips, something that other shopping carts can’t do. This represents a great time- and cost-savings benefit to the parents as well as an enormous boost to the happiness and self-esteem of the child — a chance to be part of the community.
One has to be impressed with the entrepreneurial chops of Drew Ann Long, the full-time mom who almost single-handedly brought to fruition the idea of a disabled-child-friendly cart for her daughter Caroline and other kids. For retailers, Long’s application of Facebook to drum up interest in her product among its core constituency of families with disabled kids is an object lesson in the adroit use of targeted social media.
Caroline’s Cart also demonstrates how intense loyalty can be engendered among key consumers — at relatively low cost — simply by making their shopping experience easier and more family-friendly.
Indeed, family-friendly is not a bad standard for retailers to apply throughout their store operations. Some stores have created candy-free checkout lanes to make life a little easier for parents, and while others offer secure childcare areas. All retailers should ensure that their conventional carts are equipped with adequate straps for securing small children and preventing them from suffering head injuries from falls.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of Caroline’s Cart is the profound role that supermarkets — more than most stores — can play in the lives of their customers, beyond the obvious one of making food available. That’s something retailers should never take for granted.
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