Monday, March 17, 2008

Child-Friendly Grocery Stores?

I'm just starting to hear some whispers of a new trend in supermarkets - the child-friendly checkout aisle.

Are checkout aisles currently child unfriendly?

Ummmmm yeah I'd say so.

Turn to your right and you're surrounded by candy. Turn to your left and you're surrounded by glossy diet magazines, gossip and stories about how to be sexier in bed.

Remove the candy and the magazines and voila - child-friendly checkout.

To that end, yesterday I sent off a letter to Loblaws (Canada's largest grocery store chain) asking them to consider making at least one checkout aisle per store child friendly. I'll be sure to share their response with you.

If you'd like to send a letter in support of this idea, feel free to click here to email customer service and investor relations at Loblaws

Here's mine,

Dear Loblaws,

I know health matters to you. Your President's Choice Blue Menu line, overseen by Dr. David Jenkins, is a great example of how the food industry can partner up with health professionals to provide consumers with generally healthier choices, all the while helping the food industry with sales.

I'm writing to ask you for your comments on a growing trend in Supermarkets and that would be the existence of "child-friendly" checkout lines where confections and magazines were not part of the walk-through experience.

Confection wise - we live in a world where childhood obesity is on the rise. While I certainly don't lay blame on checkout lines for rising rates, for parents harried by bored children to buy them a chocolate bar giving in is often the easiest option. Not being surrounded by chocolate and candy options while waiting to check-out certainly would decrease the frequency of this happening and potentially make family shopping a healthier, calmer, more pleasant experience.

Glossy magazine wise - the media dramatically influences our children's body images and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the majority of their early exposure to such magazines may take place in supermarket checkout lines. Unhealthy body images abound in young children with studies suggesting that half of young girls aged 6 and above want to change their appearances. Given that the bulk of the glossy magazines in checkout aisles detail how to flatten, firm, or trim various body parts along with photos of the requisite ultra-slim model, navigating these lines can be difficult. There's also really no need for my young daughters to read headlines such as, "Sex Shockers Things He Doesn't Know About During the Deed That you Really Really Need to Know", "How Long Should You Wait to Sleep with a Guy?", "The Harmless Habits that Turn Men off to you", and "Naughty Sex Tricks (Let out your inner bad girl)". Those headlines by the way all come from the April 2007 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Having at least one family friendly checkout line per store would allow concerned parents the ability to stand in a child-safe line, and may in turn increase traffic to your store, help your customers improve the health of their families and most certainly would be something news worthy.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the matter as are the readers of my blog where I've also posted this letter.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD CCFP Dip ABBM
Medical Director, Bariatric Medical Institute