Here at StrollerTraffic we’re big fans of giggle baby stores (duh). And every time we cross paths with founder Ali Wing, we get a whole lot smarter—not to mention inspired. She’s kind of like that cool mom friend we all wish we had. So we thought it time to share her wisdom and wit with our readers. Here, Ali reveals everything from how she selects products for her stores to her favorite resources for new moms.
Q. You were a pioneer in the modern parenting industry. What’s kind of shocking is that you conceived and founded giggle before you even had kids of your own. What tipped you off that parents were craving a fresh approach to baby gear?
A. Thanks to being one of nine children, I was already an “Aunt Ali” 13 times over when I started giggle. Needless to say, I had no shortage of kids in my life. Specifically, however, I was working as the COO of a multi-channel retailer when I began noticing the growing gap between demand vs. supply for a more contemporary set of parenting solutions.
Q. You must get approached by 100 brands a day wanting to sell their products in your stores. How do you make your selections?
A. We spend a ton of time evaluating products against a rigorous set of criteria. We base our reviews on a combination of market analysis, industry standards, lifestyle factors and peer reviews. And yes, there are a TON of great products in the market that we do not sell—because we are focused simply on offering “the best” product choices in almost every category.
Q. How often do you come across baby products that look fantastic, but don’t perform well, and how can moms who shop online avoid that pitfall?
A. I do think that at times an enthusiasm for a particular design can result in missed functional requirements—from safety and health standards to portability. So while we too get tempted by some purely “lovely” or “cool” baby designs, every product we sell must meet all our criteria to make our pick. And how should parents avoid this pitfall? Become smart shoppers before you start shopping.
Q. Fair enough. How do we become smart shoppers, then? What advice do you have for new moms trying to decide among 10 brands of organic-cotton onesies and just as many buggy-style strollers?
A. I wrote the “giggle Guide to Baby Gear” for this very purpose. We don’t recommend a single product in our book. Rather, we share our secret sauce for making smart product decisions as a new parent. There are many “best” products in just about every parenting category today. The key is to figure out which is best for your particular lifestyle. Do you live where cabs or cars are your key to transportation? Are stairs part of your everyday reality? Are you planning baby #2 asap? Answers to questions like these are typically much more relevant than what their friends bought.
Q. Let’s talk about the Green movement. Are we heading toward a situation where non-environmentally-friendly products will stand no chance among urban moms? Or will the eco-conscious shoppers always be just a fraction of the parent market?
A. While green products are gaining increasing momentum as a requirement among parents, it’s the demand for “healthy” products (i.e., organic, plant-based, toxin-free) that will drive the change in standards. The good news is that most “healthy” products are also more green. Not always, but often—and that’s a win-win for all of us.
Q. Is there an area of the baby-gear market that’s underserved—meaning do you wish there were, say, more manufacturers producing stylish-but-entertaining mobiles or infant socks that stay on? In other words: what’s missing?
A. I’m desperately-seeking smarter, simpler, less-plastic and more space-friendly options for swings, exersaucers and other “activity” based products. To date, the choices available are a tough design pill to swallow for most of our parents. If anyone has any innovations up their sleeves, please share!
Q. Can you name some products many moms think they need but in reality are money wasters?
A. From bassinets to crib bumpers to an endless amount of toys (when pots and pans or cardboard boxes are often quoted as kid favorites for playtime!), there are a ton of baby products sold that are more about tradition or nostalgia than practicality or necessity. And certainly I don’t think there’s anything wrong with some nostalgia, romance or just plain fun. But at giggle we try hard to help new parents understand the difference, so that they can plan their budget to get the products that they need before they pick their “extras.”
Q. On the flip side, what is an essential, life-saving product that you think most new moms overlook?
A. My number one “must-have” is a great quality crib mattress—one with at least a 150 coil count, and ideally made with natural materials. While few customers seem to miss a great-looking diaper bag, most parents need to spend more time focused on and investing in the quality of the sleep environment that they create for their child.
Q. On the subject of quality crib mattresses, what do you think about the new $600 Nook crib mattress?
A. We like what we see but we are currently evaluating the efficacy of the claims. While we always applaud innovation, and particularly innovation around key essential items that are focused on healthier living, we also take seriously our review of such claims. Both because the Nook is new and because it is quite expensive, we are early in our evaluation of the product.
Q. What are your favorite resources (ahem, StrollerTraffic aside) for new and expecting moms?
A. Whole Foods, for great, reliable, healthy choices when I cannot make it to a farmers’ market. Pedicures: sleepless, crumpled and exhausted as every new mom feels at times, pretty toes can be such a mood-lifter! A Green dry cleaner (I use Apple Cleaners in NYC), so that you don’t have to worry about formaldehyde and toxins on your clothes while holding your baby. The Flip—a video camera I can actually fit in my bag and understand how to use, no matter how much I’m juggling.