For parents who can't shop with children, but can't leave without them, Fred Meyer stores are trying to solve the dilemma.
Beginning Saturday, four of the suburban department stores in Utah will test-market Freddy's Playland - an in-store playground for children to play in while the parents shop.The regional retailer has spent $10,000 in each of the four stores to cordon off a 625-square-foot area with transparent, breakproof glass that encloses a carpeted play area stocked with toys and supervised by trained staff.
"This accommodation is being provided to better serve our customers," said Fred Meyer vice president Gordon Wilson, a Provo native who developed the service, which he said is the first of its kind in the country.
The project, anticipated to be a year-round service, is being tested in the Sandy, West Valley, Orem and Bountiful stores because of the large number of families with small children shopping at those outlets, Wilson said.
If the test proves successful, he said, Fred Meyer will implement it at other stores in its seven-state territory.
Wilson, who comes from an area known nationally for its high birth rate, said shopping with preschoolers has its problems. Fred Meyer has taken precautions against the problems of caring for customers' kids.
To avoid children becoming lost, abducted or left behind, each child and parent will be fitted with identification wrist bands before entering the Playland. Bracelets must match when the parent picks up the child.
Initially, the facility will be limited to children ages two through six, Wilson said. Parents can't leave children in the Playland for more than 90 minutes and must stay in the store while their children are using the facility. A public address system will alert parents of any problems with their child.