Even during tough times, parents need to continue to purchase "essentials" for their babies and children, but they may cut back on non-essential items. If you want to start a business that caters to parent consumers, you should stay away from novelty children items until the economy is stronger. If you are already in business and sales are slumping, consider changing your products or services to roll with the (hard) times.
Sell What People Need
Solid business ideas are timeless business ideas. They encompass product ideas that cover need or constant demand. For children, this includes quality clothing, educational games, books, music, art projects, and books. Keep in mind, though, that what particular products are selling better at any given time may change with trends. "Enrichment" products, in general, are always popular among affluent parents. For babies, "essentials" are timeless: diaper bags, burping pads, and crib bedding. These are things parents need and would ordinarily purchase for a new baby.
Create a Gold Standard
Novelty items may sell for a while, but consumer fads are unpredictable and cannot sustain a business long-term. Finding a niche and keeping up with trends is important, but even more important is to have a "gold standard" product line built on slow and steady sales that will last the lifetime of your business.
For example, think Lenox China. They set trends and have made a fortune on selling fads and novelties to the affluent (they even provide new china to the White House for every new president), but their gold standard of basic quality dinnerware has made Lenox one of the oldest and most profitable China businesses in the world.
What Parents Are Buying
When families are cash-poor, parents are more likely to invest in educational toys, books, games, and interactive toys than they are flash-in-the-pan toy items. Parents who are strapped for cash want to feel as though they have contributed something to the child's well-being, rather than just to their toy box.
Family spending cuts have led to a decline in travel and going to movies, amusement parks, and dinners out. How can you fill this void? Do you have a game or service to help families spend more time together at home? To learn about other cultures or in some way emulate the experiences they are not getting through travel?
In good times, purchases are often seen and felt like rewards. These purchases can feel like "you deserve it." In tough times, purchases seem more like sacrifices, more along the lines of "I really shouldn't."
This is not an economy where you should be asking "How can I sell a gimmick to parents?" Instead, you should be asking yourself "How can I convince the market that my product will add value to someone's life?" and "Why should a parent not feel guilty spending money on my product when they cannot set aside college savings?"
If you can answer that question for parents in your advertising and marketing campaigns, your sales are likely to pick up.
Change in Product Liability Laws
For the most part, product liability laws are governed at the state level, and your state may require you to obtain special permits and liability insurance to sell children's products. However, recently, the US Supreme Court has ruled that federal law preempts state law. Before you start selling children's items, be sure to read about the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act. The law, enacted in 2009, requires certain hand-made items intended for children under age 12 to be tested.