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Baby U

Children’s boutiques across the country are incorporating a range of educational classes into their retail strategies. These classes, from mommy-and-me yoga to breastfeeding to parenting basics, give insight into the products the shops sell and their owners’ values, while helping to build a community around the store. “It’s really important for small retailers to acknowledge […]

Baby U

Dr. Robert Biter hosting a class at Babies by the Sea.

Baby U

Baby U

Shari Criso of The Birth Boutique, helping new parents.

Baby U

Baby U

Drum circle time at Dragonfly DuLou.

Baby U

Children’s boutiques across the country are incorporating a range of educational classes into their retail strategies. These classes, from mommy-and-me yoga to breastfeeding to parenting basics, give insight into the products the shops sell and their owners’ values, while helping to build a community around the store. “It’s really important for small retailers to acknowledge their customers’ needs in order to differentiate themselves from department stores,” says Shari Criso, owner of The Birth Boutique in New Jersey. Criso, a registered nurse and board-certified lactation consultant, owns the boutique with her husband, Joe. Criso also uses her medical knowledge beyond the boutique setting, branching into the online world. She hosts chats and discussions with parents across the country. “It’s really turned into a nationwide online community where parents hungry for information will learn and meet others who are like-minded.”

While historically new parents had their families to turn to for advice and assistance in child rearing, many now are far flung from their traditional support systems. Instead, retail stores are building their own local support methods, with the knowledge that many of their shoppers share a life milestone and are looking for a place to learn and connect. Also, by turning a basic retail space into a multi-platform resource, owners are helping customers in a new way. “Being a lifestyle boutique with educational classes helps to make the lives of busy moms a little more simple,” says Lana Chirco-Baltz, owner of L.A.’s Dragonfly DuLou.

Laura Fairchild, a co-owner of shop Babies by the Sea in San Diego County says, “It was important for us to bring our own mindsets to the store. We wanted to develop a sense of community within the space where new moms and expecting moms could have all of their questions answered. We offer information and daily support to our customers in a fun venue.” Fairchild’s retail background and yearning for prenatal advice led her to her obstetrician and future business partner, Dr. Robert Biter. After agreeing that there was a shortage of information and products available for new and expecting parents in their locality, the two combined their specialties and opened the boutique in September of 2009. “We felt this was something that was missing in the community. The day we opened we released the list of classes,” Fairchild says, which included Turn the Terrible Twos into Terrific Twos, Hypnobirthing, Basic Training for New Daddies and Prenatal Yoga.

By delivering information in a welcoming environment, Babies by the Sea also aims to break down misconceptions and stereotypes. “I think that for too long the medical world has made birth seem like a scary thing. When expecting mothers find a boutique with a real medical base that wants to help, it reassures them,” Biter says.

With stores offering the latest in apparel and gear along with reputable pre- and post-natal advice, retailers are able to foster a personal relationship with their customers. “I think this is something new for retailers to consider. Today’s generation of parents wants and needs information in addition to their doctors’ opinions. Parents are looking for a place to learn, be part of a community and meet other parents,” Criso says. “If I sell someone a breast pump and they don’t know how to use it, what good is that?” —Melissa D’Agnese

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