Read our Blog on the benefits of buying from an independent store
Why buy from an Independent Nursery Store
January 24, 2019
This article illustrates the kind of information car seat shoppers should be looking for when they are shopping for a new baby or child car seat.
It also helps shoppers arm themselves with useful questions to put to retailers.
At Pushchairs and Car Seats we are happy to answer any questions you have and will provide you with all the information that you need to make the correct choice of car seat. We believe in safety above all else.
We are a small bricks and mortar independent store just outside Wallingford, located on a beautiful farm away from the hurly burly of town and city centres. So why would you buy from us not from a large chain or department store.
1) We care - we only recommend products we would buy ourselves. We are interested in safety for your child and convenience for you.
2) We've been doing this for years - we first moved to our location in 2004.
3) We'll spend as much time with you as you need. We are in no rush.
4) You can park right outside our doors - it's free.
a) you can try out all the car seats in your own car to make sure they can be fitted correctly
b) you can check pushchairs in your boot to make sure it will fit
c) you don't have to carry heavy boxes very far.
5) You can buy online, over the phone or in store. We want you to come and touch, push, fold or even put children in our pushchairs and car seats. We provide all the information we can online but sometimes there is no substitute for having a go with the product yourself.
6) We've been doing this a while. Hopefully we can answer all your questions and we encourage you to ask them. We're only interested in finding the right product that suits your needs. There is no best pushchair and no best car seat. We only sell high quality products.
7) We can build your pushchair and install you car seat for you. We'll even check your car seat if you brought it from somewhere else. More importantly we can show you how to correctly fit your car seat so that you can buy with confidence.
8) We don't have shareholders - we are small independently owned company. We only have to worry about our customers. We built this company ourselves.
9) There are some great pubs and restaurants nearby - if you need a break and get hungry we are happy to show you where you can get some food and drink.
10) If you decide to buy from us we can usually put together a package deal for you for all the things you actually need and we'll also tell you what you don't need.
Car seat buying and fitting: which retailer is best? By Lisa Galliers
Which Magazine Review
ARTICLE 2 OF 4 IN THIS GUIDE
10 essential car seat fitting checks Car seat buying and fitting: which retailer is best?
Fitting a baby car seat or child car seat: common problems How to fit a baby car seat or a child car seat: video guides Our investigation discovered 9 out of 10 stores failing to ask key car seat safety questions when parents shop In summer 2018, our car seat mystery shoppers travelled around England, Scotland and Wales, visiting car seat retailers to check the advice being given out to parents.
We discovered most stores are failing to ask key safety questions of parents before recommending a seat, potentially putting children's lives at risk. Our mystery shoppers posed as customers wanting to upgrade their nine-month-old baby’s car seat to the next stage. No information was offered up freely by the mystery shoppers, so the store staff should have asked all applicable questions. We visited 213 stores in total, including Mamas & Papas, Mothercare, John Lewis, Halfords, Smyths and independents. Stores were judged against a success rate of 100% for asking all the right questions. We saw an 89% failure rate.
Our advice is to always get your car seat fitted by a trained expert That means that in every nine out of ten visits, the store’s staff failed to ask all our key safety questions. In 86% of visits a consultation form was not used which could have improved scores overall had one been checked. 95% of assistants asked the child’s age – more so than height and weight. 18% failed to ask what vehicle the car seat would be used in 54% failed to ask what other vehicles the car seat would be used in 83% of assistants did not ask about underfloor storage in the car 21% did not advise on the benefits of keeping such a small baby rear facing for longer 23% of visits didn't offer of a demonstration of the seat Our advice To be clear, our advice when it comes to car seats remains the same - don't buy a car seat without getting it fitted first.
Always get your car seat fitted by a trained expert, but before you head to a store: Research your seat
Take along our checklist of information
Give the answer to all of these to the store staff
Ask for a demonstration
Get hands on while you're there
Challenge anything which you don't feel is right
We don't recommend buying a child car seat online
Download our checklist to make sure next time you visit a store you're getting asked the right questions.
Years of safety failings What’s most disappointing is that these safety failings aren't the first we've seen.
Which? investigated car seat retailer fittings in 2011, 2012 and 2014. In each of those years we received similarly shocking results which were fed back to retailers.
In our 2014 investigation, nine out of 10 retailers failed our car seat fitting tests and promised to follow up and improve the situation.
Lisa Galliers, Which? car seat expert says: ‘Years on we really shouldn’t be seeing results like this. 'Retailers continue to put babies lives at risk by failing to ensure car seat salespeople are asking the right questions and giving out the best advice and recommendations for car seats.' 'Retailers say they're offering training, and I've been on some of these training courses, but something is clearly still not filtering down to the shop floor. That needs to change. We've offered to meet with all retailers involved to help them improve.’ We carried out our mystery shop in partnership with Good Egg Safety, an organisation that champions car seat safety and runs regular mystery shops and car seat checks carried out across the UK.
Its last mystery shop, in 2017, recorded a nine out of 10 failure rate. We’ve shared detailed findings with each of the retailers and will ask them once again to improve. Our advice remains: Always get any child car seat fitted by an expert before you buy Go armed with our information and checklist of questions. You can buy the best car seat in the world, but if it’s not fitted properly it won't be effective in a crash and could put your child in serious danger.
Car seat failings Mamas and Papas and John Lewis had a 100% failure rate.
All visits were recorded as fails because the retail staff did not ask all of the required questions, or the staff didn’t explain (or demonstrate knowledge) as to why they missed this question out. However, all the retailers we visited during this investigation need to improve: even Halfords, the highest-performing major retailer in our investigation, had an 83% failure rate.
The questions: The answers to all of these questions will help a shop assistant select the right car seat for you, your car and your baby. You can download a copy of these questions from this advice guide to take with you when you shop
1) Ask the child’s weight Important for car seats which have weight limits. Some seats have a crossover weight limit. It’s important to know the child’s weight so that the correct advice can be given about keeping a baby in the lowest group car seat for as long as possible.
2) Ask the child’s height i-Size seats have height limits. And a baby will have outgrown its baby car seat when his or her head is level with the top of the seat.
3) Ask the child’s age I-Size makes it mandatory to keep a baby rear-facing until he or she is 15 months old in an i-size seat.
4) Ask what vehicle the seat will be used in Not all car seats fit in all cars so it’s vital to select one that will fit in the car it will be used in.
5) Ask what other vehicles the seat will be used in It’s also important to know other cars where the seat will be used to ensure it will fit in those, too.
6) Ask if the vehicles have ISOfix This should be asked so the staff member can explain about ISOfix and the pros and cons of using this system.
7) Ask about underfloor storage Underfloor storage will affect the type of seat which can be recommended, as some car seats use a support leg which may not be suitable to be used in cars with this feature.
8) Ask about top tether Not all cars have top tether, and if a car has underfloor storage in the back then a seat with top tether may be a good alternative to use, rather then a car seat that uses a support leg.
9) Check fit list for ISOfix car seats For ISOfix seats it’s important to confirm via a manufacturer fit list that the seat will fit the make and model of the car it's to be used in.
10) Explain rear-facing benefits A nine-month old baby weighing 9kg could, according to the regulations, be moved up to a forward-facing Group 1 car seat, but many car seat experts agree that this is far too young to turn a baby forward-facing. The latest i-Size baby car seats make it mandatory to keep your baby rear-facing until 15 months old, in a bid to help stop parents turning their babies forward too soon.
11) Offer to demonstrate the car seat A vital part of buying a car seat is being shown how to install it safely.
If the shop assistant doesn’t offer you a demo ask for one and then get hands on yourself. All questions are rated equally, in order to get 100% on our scale and the visit to be recorded as a pass overall, the store staff needed to ask all the applicable questions, or they had to explain why a question wasn’t asked. If a question wasn’t applicable, then it was marked as N/A and would not count towards the final mark.
John Lewis FAILURE RATE OF 100%
No staff at the John Lewis stores visited asked all the questions.
However, half of John Lewis branches that were visited scored between 80 and 91%, which means they only missed out a few questions and these visits could have easily switched to a pass overall had our mystery shoppers been advised correctly about underfloor storage, or explained top tether, for example. One store scored 22% which means only two of the applicable questions were asked (age and weight).
None of the stores visited used a check list. Most of the stores offered a demonstration, though.
What John Lewis says: 'We treat the selling of car seats with the utmost seriousness and have invested significant resource and training in this area to get it right for our customers. We ensure every nursery Partner attends and passes a two-day car seat training course, independently run by the leading car seat training provider in the UK. We also have mystery shops carried out by a third party, following up on all subsequent advice to ensure the quality of our training. 'We have asked Which? to release their methodology and would value the opportunity to discuss it further with them.'
Mamas & Papas FAILURE RATE OF 100%
No staff asked all of the applicable questions;
however three stores asked more than half of the questions, which is promising. On one visit the assistant asked just one of the required questions (age). Only one store asked about other vehicles the car seat would be used in. None asked about underfloor storage in the car, and four stores didn’t offer to demonstrate the car seat. None of the stores visited used a check list.
What Mamas & Papas says: 'Because car seat safety is so important to us, every Mamas & Papas store has an IOSH-accredited car seat expert and all colleagues are trained to follow a comprehensive check list during the sale process. 'We have asked Which? and Good Egg to confirm which Mamas & Papas stores featured in this research so that we can provide colleagues in these stores with refresher training if necessary.'
Halfords FAILURE RATE OF 83% Despite a failure rate of 83%,
Halfords performed best of the bunch, which is positive, as we worked with Halfords following our 2014 fitting investigation. But the pass rate was mainly due to 13 (38%) stores out of 34 in Scotland passing. In England/Wales only two out of 52 stores passed (4%). 18 stores could have easily swapped the overall fails for passes had they remembered to ask a few more questions, such as underfloor storage boxes, asking about height and explaining about rear-facing for longer. 24 stores gained a score of 50% or below, with the lowest mark being 22%, meaning only two of the applicable questions were asked.
What Halfords says: 'A Halfords spokesperson says: “At Halfords we take the safety of children very seriously. Whilst concerned to see the results from the Which? and Good Egg mystery shop, we don't feel they represent our high levels of training, which incorporate the Which? charter and have been developed in partnership with car seat manufacturers. 'We have requested the methodology from Which? to help us better understand the results and make changes where necessary, and would value the opportunity to discuss creating a single industry standard.'
Mothercare FAILURE RATE OF 90% Five stores gained a score of 100%, which means all questions were asked.
Eight stores could have improved their score overall by asking a few more questions, such as height, other vehicles, top tether and asking about underfloor storage. Seven stores gained a score of 50% or below, with the lowest mark being 22%, meaning only two of the applicable questions were asked. Only five stores used a consultation form. What
Mothercare says: 'At Mothercare, we are committed to offering an exemplary car seat fitting service to all our customers. 'We work hand in hand with Child Seat Safety who train all our specialists to gain, the industry recognised, IOSH qualification. We also work closely with our suppliers to provide enhanced specialist advice for customers. Without greater insight into the methodology and processes used by Which? and Good Egg, it is difficult to comment further on the specific findings of the survey.'
Smyths Toys FAILURE RATE OF 94% Smyths Toys are a relatively newcomer to the car seat retailer market, and we included them for the first time this year. Two stores gained a score of 100%, which means all questions were asked. 23 stores gained scores between 90% and 51%. 11 stores gained a score of 50% or below, with the lowest two stores scoring 22% which means only 2 out of the applicable questions were asked.
What Smyths Toys says: 'The many thousands of customers whom we serve, know the value of the direct personalised advice and assistance they receive from our staff who are trained to the highest standards. A credible investigation would have given these staff the opportunity to respond there and then to any specific criticism.'
Independent retailers FAILURE RATE OF 90% We had higher hopes for the Independents this time around, but only two of the independents passed with 100%.
This means all of the applicable questions were asked. Four stores scored between 80 and 90% which means only one or two questions were not asked. All but one independent store, we mystery shopped, recommended keeping the baby rear-facing for longer, which is good. Only three independent stores used a consultation form, though, and perhaps, surprisingly, four stores didn't offer to demonstrate the car seat for the customer.
Retailers offer staff training, but there is clearly something not quite working, because in our mystery shop store staff are not asking the right questions. We want to see all sales assistants selling child car seats using a consultation form.
This lists all the key questions that need asking so that no vital safety information is missed. We'd advise getting a car seat fitted by a trained expert before you buy it These forms are already available and some retailers say the forms are used, however, 86% of the assistants we mystery shopped did not use one.
What we did
In Summer 2018, car seat mystery shoppers travelled around England, Wales and Scotland visiting 213 retail stores in total, divided by 15 visits across different regions in England, plus Wales and Scotland. These included all the major car seat retailers: Halfords (86), Mothercare (52), Smyths Toys (36), John Lewis (12), Mamas and Papas (7), plus range a of independent retailers (20).
The number of visits per brand were a snapshot based on the number of stores across the UK offering car seat services. The salesperson at each retailer was marked according to how many of the following key safety questions were asked. The questions, developed with car seat industry experts and car seat manufacturers, were all rated equally.
Retailers were marked with a ‘fail’ if a question wasn’t asked, or there was no understanding of the topic, or demonstration of why the question didn’t need to be asked.
In order to pass our safety criteria, retailers had to ask the following questions: what’s your baby’s weight, height and age; what vehicle do you have; will you be using the car seat in any other vehicles; does your car have ISOfix connectors; does your car have a top-tether point (if applicable), was a fit list checked (for ISOfix car seats, if applicable), does your car have underfloor storage, advise to keep a baby rear-facing for as long as possible and to offer a demonstration on how to fit the car seat (either in store and/or in the customer's car).
We carried out our mystery shop in partnership with Good Egg Safety, an organisation that champions car seat safety and runs regular mystery shops and car seat checks carried out across the UK, who commissioned an independent research company.
Its last mystery shop, in 2017, recorded a 90 out of 10 failure rate.