- Wegmans is closing its last Wkids childcare center in the Buffalo, New York area due to declining popularity, the Buffalo News reported. After the closure in June, just six Wegmans stores will have Wkids centers, down from 27 chain-wide in the early 2000s.
- For years, Wkids centers offered free babysitting while parents and caregivers shopped for groceries. Now Wegmans is encouraging parents to take their kids shopping with them and participate in other in-store experiences, such as kids’ yoga, cooking classes and family movie nights.
- The Wkids spaces are being converted for other uses including prep areas for grocery pickup and delivery, expanded cafe seating and a temporary pharmacy space.
Elevating the store experience has become central to many grocery chains’ efforts to win market share and earn customer loyalty, and every inch of grocery space matters now more than ever.
So while retailers certainly want to bring young parents into their stores, they want to ensure they're offering the most engaging experience possible. Upgrades like in-store eateries, wine cellars and cooking demos are providing more bang for stores' buck. E-commerce is also requiring grocery stores to reallocate space for staging, preparation or storage of orders placed online.
The loss of free childcare will no doubt disappoint some parents, but Wegmans still has a slate of fun programs for families. In addition to yoga, movie nights and cooking classes, there are special events for holidays along with regular story time events and painting nights.
The grocer is also encouraging parents to take their children down the grocery aisles with them. This is a valuable way to teach kids about different foods, healthy eating, how to understand pricing and other practical details, but it’s also an opportunity for grocers to capture additional spending. With children in tow, parents may be more prone to impulse purchases based on what their kids ask for during the shopping trip. In fact, research from Packaged Facts shows that 26% of parents learn about a new product from their child.
Wegmans isn’t the only grocery retailer that has offered childcare areas for shoppers. Kroger banners including Smith’s, Fred Meyer and Kroger have babysitting areas for children. Other grocers are scaling back, including Giant Eagle, which closed more than half of its Eagle's Nest childcare facilities in 2014. Tops Markets, which competes with Wegmans, also recently closed its last in-store center where parents could drop their children while shopping. In its place, the store is opening a coffee bar.