Sunday, October 17, 2010

Part II: Really? You think people need that?

If you were reading this blog a year ago, you likely know I wrote about the winners and losers we uncovered last year at the ABC Kids' Expo, a buying show for juvenile products retailers. This annual show gives me a chance to meet with our suppliers face-to-face, and it enables me to examine products in-person that I'm considering stocking at our stores. I come across some real gems at ABC this year, but I also come across some real duds.

Before I get to the good stuff, I will post a disclaimer. The information contained in this blog post is based soley on my opinion. My. Opinion. You may disagree with me, perhaps you use and love a product that's listed here, I understand -- the heart wants what the heart wants. I'm okay, and you're okay. We're all okay. Okay?

  1. I'm all for babywearing, it provides parents with a great way to connect with their little ones, and it's a practical way to tote children around, however, I don't get this. What if your child wants to sit down? What if your child wants to sleep??? I can't quite figure out what 'need' this particular product fulfills.
  2. A one-size-fits-all sleeper? While I appreciate that it's USA-made, and I understand that babies can outgrow their clothing quickly, this is just waaaay too fussy for me. If you want to get more mileage out of your baby's sleepers, buy a size larger than you need, and fold over the arms and legs to fit.
  3. You know when you go to the mall, and you forget where you parked your car, so you beep it and follow the honk? Now you can do that with your child too. I understand the panicked feeling when you lose sight of a young child, but the simple solution to that problem is to keep them within arms' reach at all times. I have four kids, it is possible.
  4. Color me stupid, but I'm going to ask the obvious question: Where do Skittles fit into this scheme? Feeding kids a healthy diet can be tricky, requiring a balance of cunning and compromise, but does it really need a chart complete with stickers?
  5. Gosh, I wonder how differently my life would have turned out if my mother cared enough to dress both herself and I in clothing that kept me in a constant state of overstimulation. Man, I probably missed out on so much in those first six months that I was stuck looking at pastel ducks. I'd probably be running the country by now. Damn you, mother, damn you to hell!
  6. I don't care what you're doing, and how inconvenient blowing your nose may seem, but this would never, ever be okay. Do us all a favor and use a hankerchief, please?
  7. Although it's billed as "The life-saving device that every parent needs", the manufacturer of this product should revise the aforementioned suggestion to read "The life-saving device that every parent needs, unless they live in a bungalow or higher than 50 feet from the ground." As horrifying as the idea of a housefire is, I'm not sure we all need a tethered bag to lower our child to safety.
  8. Do you really want your child wearing this? Before you write me off as a cold, heartless bitch, to my credit, in ten years of parenting, I've never had a reason to ice a child's entire head. Have you?
  9. Don't kid yourself, danger lurks everywhere. Everywhere! Forget radiation-proof clothing, I'm going to start wearing full body armor from now on, I'm not going to take any chances!
  10. Now, you can be 'with' your baby, even when you're away from your baby. Of course, I get the point of having a baby monitor in the house, but I can't understand why you'd need to monitor your baby when you're outside of the house. If you hear your baby cry over your cellphone while you're at a business meeting, just what are you supposed to do about it anyway?

This is only a sampling of some of the questionable products I saw, I am actually exercising considerable restraint tonight (plus I just can't be bothered to document each and every one of them). There was an alarm you slip inside your baby's diaper that checks for pee and poop every eight seconds, there were educational legwarmers (learning through osmosis?), there was a motorized platform you attach to a stroller so that you are propelled forward while pushing the stroller (walking is for losers, apparently), and the list goes on.

While it's great to have tools that make parenting easier, I have to wonder at what point 'enough is enough'. Of course, when someone finally invents a cloth diaper that turns poop into gold, I will be all over it... maybe next year, stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


After two days at the ABC Expo, I feel quite underwhelmed with this year's offerings. There are hundreds (thousands?) of vendors, but a lot of it feels like rows and rows of more of the same. There are a *spectacular* number of cloth diaper vendors at the show this year, and I have to say, I can appreciate how overwhelmed new parents must feel when they walk into our stores. I went to the show expecting to pick up some new cloth diaper brands, but at this point, I'm starting to feel like adding more variety to our already great selection of cloth diapers might actually do a disservice to our customers.

Seeing cloth diapers in person at a show like ABC gives me a chance to properly evaluate them. I was on the fence about the new Tiny Socialite collection from the folks at bumGenius, but seeing them IRL offered some reassurance that preordering them was a smart move. While they not be to everyone's taste, the prints look quite different in person than they do online -- I like them, all of them! The Flip diaper system now includes an optional newborn insert, a smart add-on that parents can buy to make the diapers fit small newborns better.

Bummis debuted a few new prints, both in their Super Whisper Wraps and their Super Brite covers. They're also introducing a new 'economy' cover, we ordered some, though I tend to think the term 'economy' as applied to a diaper cover is somewhat of a misnomer as all cloth diapers can be considered 'economy' when compared to their throwaway counterparts. We got a preview of a prototype of a product still in development, it's always exciting to get a sneak peak of what's coming up, the process of developing a new product is not a quick one, it requires lots of testing and tweaking! Suffice it to say, when this particular product is rolled out, I think it will be well-received!

At this point, the only new product we've picked up is a line of bamboo breastpads from Bamboobies. The breastpads are trim, absorbent, and leakproof. I've had my eye on them for a while, their daytime breastpads are very discrete under clothing, and they offer a more absorbent breastpad that's great if you leak overnight. We currently stock the bamboo breastpads from Mother-ease, but they are b-u-l-k-y!

We're considering a few new products that I'm still undecided about. Tegu magnetic wooden blocks are a novel approach to traditional wooden building blocks. The blocks are magnetic, so kids can create all kinds of configurations, however, the price point is a little high. $60 for 26 assorted blocks. Too high? Just right? I know we're not a toy store, but it's nice to offer something for the big brothers and sisters out there.

Another product up for consideration (and this is where I totally have to eat crow, mmmmm!) is the Woombie swaddler. We receive requests for a swaddler quite often, and the Woombie brand is a frequent request. Yes, it looks like a straight jacket, but for a baby who likes to be swaddled, I can see the appeal. Have any of you actually used this swaddler? Thoughts? Yay or nay???

There a plethora of nursing covers here, another product that customers frequently request. I'm not opposed to the idea of a nursing cover, I think any product that makes a woman feel comfortable nursing is a welcome addition to our store, however, there are so many different kinds of nursing covers, it makes my head spin. Bibs, shawls, shrugs, and the list goes on! It's time I just pick one and order it...

A major disappointment at the show is that Infantino has debuted some new carriers, a knock-off of Ergo, and a knock-off of the standard Mei Tai. Infantino's poorly-designed bag sling was responsible for the deaths of three infants, resulting in a recall and causing people to question the safety of babywearing in general. Infantino's new slings look shoddy and in person, I hope people are able to see past the low suggested retail price and realize that you get what you pay for. As attractivec as a low pricetag might be, it's not worth compromising the safety of a child.

Today is my last day at the show, I've put in loads of reorders to our existing suppliers, and now I need to make a final decision about the products I'm on the fence about. There are many (many!) bizarre new product offerings this year, suffice it to say, there will never be a shortage of stupidity when it comes to trying to suck the money out of new parents' wallets.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let the games begin!

We landed in Las Vegas yesterday, after a smooth seven hours of travelling. First, we flew from Ottawa to Montreal, although I don't entirely believe that. I think we actually just flew to the end of the runway in Ottawa, and walked the rest of the way, judging from how short the flight was, and the distance we walked in the Montreal airport, it seemed like we walked forever! There were long lineups in Montreal, it took almost an hour to pass through customs, in that time, I noticed how chic Montrealers are. Unlike myself, who prefers to travel in comfortable clothing (the same cotton t-shirt and stretchy pants it seems I wear every day of my life), people in Montreal dress up to travel.

The flight from Montreal to Las Vegas was five hours long, with no SkyMall to entertain me, I decided to watch an in-flight movie instead. The pickings were slim (very slim), so I settled on "Sex and the City 2: two hours of your life you'll never get back". OK, perhaps I fudged the title a little, but my title is a little more accurate than their title. When a movie opens with Liza Minelli dancing and singing Beyonce's "Single Ladies" in little more than pantyhose, you know it's going to be bad (very bad). In normal circumstances, I would just stop watching a bad movie, but at 40,000 feet in the air with absolutely nothing else to do, I was sort of stuck. I would call the movie horrific, but then I'd be worried the word 'horrific' would take offense to being associated with such a craptacular movie, and it would take me to court and sue me for slander. I looked up the movie's rating on Rotten Tomatoes last night, and it got a surprisingly high 15%. Yes, it's a very low rating, but the fact that 15% of the movie reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review indicates to me that 15% of the movie reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes shouldn't actually be movie reviewers because clearly they suck at reviewing movies.

When we landed in Las Vegas, we did what most Canadians do when they hit US soil, and we went outlet shopping. After all that walking from Ottawa to Montreal in the Montreal airport yesterday, it was quickly apparent that the one pair of shoes I brought with me are not going to cut it in Las Vegas. Walking a show that is a million square feet in size requires good shoes, I dropped the ball, and packed a pair of little black ballet flats that I think are super-cute. I had an awesome pair of Pappillios (vinyl Birkenstocks) that gave up the ghost this summer, and I was unsuccessful at finding a suitable replacement, so I took a pair of shoes that are generally comfortable in day-to-day use. Epic fail!

In Las Vegas, they sell two kinds of shoes: ridiculously tall and pointy high heels, or 'toning' shoes that supposedly work your glutes while you walk. There were eleventy million different styles of 'toning' shoes, and not a single pair of Birkenstocks to be found! I don't know who wears these 'toning' shoes, I'm someone who generally lacks style (not entirely true, I just don't give a rat's ass), and I'd be embarrassed to be seen wearing them in public. They must work really well if someone's going to put up with their sheer ugliness in order to obtain a firmer butt. I will pay close attention the butt situation here and report back!.

With no luck at the outlet shopping in finding a decent pair of shoes, we headed to Target to see what they had to offer (FYI, Target is coming soon to Canada!). While we were there, I came across Dr. Scholl's massaging gel inserts, with nothing to lose, I bought a pair. When I slipped them in my shoes, it was like the heavens opened up and angels started to sing. So. Comfortable! So in the span of a week, I picked up crocheting, found a curly hair on my chin (TMI?) and started wearing shoe orthotics. It's liked I skipped right to being 80! Regardless, I will have some bounce back in my step today when I pound the pavement at the ABC Expo.

We're off the show this morning, I have several orders I need to place, then I'll be floating around (thanks, Dr. Scholls!) trying to scope out any new products that I think would be a good fit for our store. Stay tuned for pics and news from the show!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Do you know your ABCs?

The largest juvenile product show in the industry, the ABC Kids Expo will be running next week from October 10-13 in Las Vegas, and we'll be there to bring the latest and greatest back with us. This tradeshow is a great opportunity for us to spend some face-to-face time with our suppliers, who will be revealing both new and updated products at the show. Some of you may have already seen the big 'print' reveals from a few key cloth diaper manufacturers this week, but there will still be lots of fun stuff to see at the show, our friends at Bummis are teasing us with hints about new products they'll be debuting next week.

Last year at the show, we asked readers for their opinions on new products we were considering carrying -- it always helps to consider customers' perspective, I know I have a horrible case of tunnel vision when it comes to buying for the store. The Expo itself can be like a live episode of Dragon's Den, where entrepreneurs test the waters with their business ideas, like the TV show, there are hits and misses. I'll bring you the best of both worlds (and I'll do my very best to be nice about it, I promise!).

Once again, I'll be collecting swag at the show, randomly selected comments to the 2010 ABC blog entries will be selected to receive show samples.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Excuse my sarcasm. I can't help myself.

sar·casm   /ˈsɑrkæzəm/

1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.

Well now, didn't I get my hand slapped on Facebook this morning when I posted a humorous (or so I thought) commentary on a product that I personally found silly (like you, I'm allowed an opinion, OK?). I admit, I often treat customers like friends, perhaps I should filter myself more than I do, however, I've never bothered trying. Not in-person, and certainly not online. I work a lot at the Ottawa store because I enjoy it. Being a shopkeeper, admittedly not the most glamorous job in the world, is a pretty sweet gig. No two days are ever the same, and I'm constantly meeting new and interesting people. I love it when a customer lingers at the store because we're having a good conversation.

If there's a chance we may meet, you should understand I am a naturally sarcastic person. People who know me well are quite familiar with this particular aspect of my personality, it's just the way I am. I usually do a good job of censoring myself when necessary. As an example, my inlaws (God bless them), don't 'get' sarcasm, so I don't bother. The last time I attempted sarcasm with them was shortly after I married my husband (their beloved son, obviously). They asked me why I hadn't changed my last name yet, and I deadpanned "Because it will make things so much easier when we eventually get divorced." - ba-dum-bum! You could have heard a pin drop. Instead of laughing (the expected result, I mean come on, it was funny!), the joke was followed by awkard silence. Note to self: the inlaws don't like sarcasm.

Inlaws aside, I'm aware that children don't often 'get' sarcasm. As my husband has pointed out many (many) times, perhaps sarcasm isn't the best approach when we're trying to teach our little ones, who have a habit of taking everything I say literally, not figuratively (a real problem in certain situations!). Although as they get older, I'm starting to notice Maddy and Hannah making effective use of sarcasm, when they let a zinger fly, I'll admit it warms my heart a little. OK, a lot.

So there you have it. There is no ill intent behind the things I say, in-person or online. I'm simply trying to be funny. As for the suggestion I should 'stop with the sarcasm', sorry -- no can do! That's like asking a zebra to stop with the stripes.