One thing that all retailers can agree on is that the last thing they want to see after a customer walks out the door with a product is the same customer walking back in with a return. A stroller can be a parent's best friend or biggest nuisance. Consider the following before you buy:
1. Safety should be the top priority – All strollers are not equally safe. Of all the brands available on the market, a majority pass the strict Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association (JPMA) rigorous safety standards. The JPMA tests products for, among other things, secure restraint systems, protection against unexpected tipping, and safety from loose parts that may present a choking hazard. Look for safety certified strollers or call the JPMA at 1-609-231-8500 for a list of JPMA certified strollers.
2. Your lifestyle should be considered – Many stroller returns occur because parents simply chose a stroller they thought was attractive without considering whether the features fit their lifestyle. Only after using it for a few weeks do they realize that it was a mistake. How you anticipate using your stroller will determine what style you should choose. For example, urban parents who will use their stroller primarily on city streets will need an extra durable, lightweight stroller with an excellent suspension system to handle the abuse of the city streets. Suburban parents who anticipate long outdoor strolls will do best with a heavier stroller/carriage with large wheels for easy handling over sidewalks, sand and grass. Parents who expect to use the stroller primarily indoors, such as at a shopping mall, need a small to medium size stroller with smooth swivel wheels for easy maneuverability through store aisles. Parents who travel frequently will need a lightweight stroller that folds up, making it easy to carry on the plane, to Grandma's, or to Disneyland.
3. Ease of use is vital – Nothing will make parents hate their stroller more than having to struggle to get it open or closed in a parking lot with a screaming child in their arms. The stroller should be a convenience, not a menace. Some strollers open and close with ease, employing automatic locks for hassle-free handling. Others require bending down and manually lining up and locking wheels and frames. Though the easier to use strollers cost a little more, you may not mind once you realize what you may sacrifice for a lower price. Open and close the stroller in the store and make sure you are comfortable with its operation before making the purchase.
4. Make sure the stroller "fits" you – That's right, you should "try the stroller on for size." Many returns occur because parents find that the handle is too short, causing them to stroll in an uncomfortable position. Also, check the stride – strollers have different sized wheels and wheel bases, and frequently parents complain of kicking the stroller wheels because of an improper "fit." If both you and your spouse anticipate using the stroller but you are significantly different in height, consider a stroller with an adjustable handle so that both of you will be comfortable while using it.
5. Ask about the product warranty – Strollers don't come with guarantees. Most manufacturers (but not all) offer a warranty against product defects for anywhere from 90 days to one year after the date of purchase, depending on the manufacturer. Make sure you know exactly what the manufacturer's warranty covers to prevent surprises later on.
Strollers are transportation for a child's first few years. Much like buying a car, your lifestyle, budget and personal preferences need to be a part of the decision-making process. By knowing that all strollers are not alike, you will be taking a big step toward ensuring the safety and happiness of you and your child.
Nancy Burkhart is the Director of Marketing for COMBI International in Carol Stream, Illinois.