Are Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Tops wise to drop in-store childcare?
Wegmans is closing its last WKids play center in Buffalo in another example of retailers that are discontinuing in-store child care services and kids’ play areas.
WKids offers free supervision of children ages three to nine for up to two hours while their parents shop or use the store’s cafe.
“Certainly we’re finding space in our current store footprint to bring more services that are now in greater demand,” Michele Mehaffy, the chain’s consumer affairs manager in Buffalo, told The Buffalo News. “Of course, these happen to be services that many families use. To be honest, the number of families using the WKids service has steadily declined over the past several years.”
Some of the closed WKids spaces are being used for grocery pickup and delivery or expanded cafe seating. After the play area closes in June, six WKids will be left, down from 27 at their peak in the early 2000s. Newer stores have not featured play centers.
The Wegmans location will encourage families to shop together, offering kid-friendly shopping carts. The retailer is also promoting Family Experience programs, including kid-friendly movie nights, kids’ cooking classes and yoga sessions, special events for Mother’s Day and other holidays, story times and painting nights.
The closing of the play centers is bound to disappoint some. As recently as 2016, an article in The Buffalo News praised the WKids service for helping overcome the frustrations of shopping with kids.
Among other retailers, Giant Eagle has closed many of its Eagle’s Nest children’s activity centers in part due to increasing use of curbside pickup. Tops, serving Western New York, closed its last in-store play center earlier this year to make room for a coffee bar. Many Kroger banners still offer an hour of free childcare for two- to six-year-olds. IKEA has Småland areas.
Playgrounds at fast food chains such as McDonald’s that used to support birthday parties are getting harder to find. A 2017 Eater article attributed the decline to fast food chains shifting marketing away from kids, a need for more seating and finding that children are entertaining themselves with games on mobile devices.
- Wegmans says bye to free baby-sitting, hello to kids’ yoga and cooking classes – The Buffalo News
- Wegmans and other grocers scale back on-site childcare – Grocery Dive
- WKids is wonderful for shopping parents – The Buffalo News
- Giant Eagle to close some Eagle’s Nest children’s centers – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Where Have All the Fast-Food Playgrounds Gone? – Eater
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think is behind retailer decisions to close in-store childcare spaces? Are modern parents hesitant to use these facilities?