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As you move through the baby and children industry from clothing to toys and the everyday accessories which make life easier and more manageable, you quickly come to realise that the sector is propped up by items which revolve almost purely on health and safety - with car seats sitting at the very top of the market for safety conscious accessories for babies and young children.
When it comes to buying a car seat, we tend to find that the majority of buyers research put a great deal of time into comparing and assessing the benefits and drawbacks of different makes and models, moving between those with upstanding reviews and those which come under various offers, discounts and deals. Why is this? First and foremost, a car seat is an expensive purchase but one which is entirely necessary for the safety of young children - creating a large industry with plenty of room for expansion and development between retailers and brands.
Interestingly enough, and particularly given their prominence in the health and safety market of the children’s industry today, car seats were originally designed as a way of keeping a child contained in a car rather than keeping them safe. Appearing in the 1930’s, the very early designs of car seat took on an appearance similar to that of a swing seat which you might slip a baby or young child into; hanging from the back of the seat to provide convenience for the driver more than anything else.
Moving into the 1940’s, car seats began to be developed a little more – but still with very little regard for safety, with manufacturers instead putting an emphasis on the child’s experience so that they could see out of the window as the car moved. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that car seats began to take on a little more of a health and safety focussed role, with two different designers (one American and one British) creating a contraption whereby the car seat was fitted with its own type of seat belt. In fact, the British design featured the Y-clip buckle which is still a popular design concept even today!
It was at this stage in the history of the car seat industry that car manufacturers started to become aware of the growing trend and thus started creating their own models of car seat to promote family safety to their customer base. Ford Motors’ car seat hit the market in 1968, creating a kind of cocoon for the child which shielded the majority of their body and installed a cushion in front of their face in case of impact – think of it like a very early and very basic air bag, but instead of the airbag it was a simple pillow. General Motors came next, offering two separate designs to cater to both the baby and child market; both of which used seat belts to hold the lightweight seats in place.
The 1970’s was when the car seat industry saw a real turning point, thanks to the introduction of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations which outlined that all car seats be held in place by a seat belt. Following this, in 1985 the car seat industry saw another turning point in the requirement that children under a certain age be placed in a car seat during travel – something which proved a real selling point for the industry and saw sales boom.
And then we come to the modern day car seats, held in place by multiple regulations and requirements which ensure that car seats are tailored to the age of the child and their weight, meaning that the likelihood is that any child will need more than one car seat in their lifetime.
When you factor all of this into the evolution and growth of the car seat industry over the last 90 years since its conception, it is impressive to reflect on just how much the industry has grown and shifted to make allowances for growing needs and expanded regulations. Of course, for the industry this means increased sales – and for the family buyers, it means more expense.
When it comes to buying a car seat, the first rule of thumb for any buyer is to understand the importance of buying a seat which is tailored to their child in terms of size and weight. While many other industries in the baby and children sector have a “they will grow into it” rule, car seats are something which need to fit from day one – and if you’re not convinced then the following stat should help.
Motor vehicle deaths in children under 12 have decreased by around 43% in the last ten years, largely due to the correct usage of car seats. However, vehicle death is still a leading cause of death in young children.
Motor accidents happen, and car seats are there to ensure that if they do, young children are as safe and protected as possible.
One of the most important things that buyers can look for in a good car seat retailer is the expertise and guidance of an in store expert. After all, you can read as many online blogs and articles about good models as you like, but if you want tailored advice to suit your car and your child, heading to a specialist retailer with experts on hand is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
Some good examples of retailers with the right kind of expertise and focus in the car seat industry include:
One of the notable things about this list of retailers is that it encompasses a wide range of retail sectors – with Halfords being a motor specialist retailer while Mamas & Papas is dedicated to the sale of baby and childrenswear and accessories. This is because expertise in car seats is not limited to the baby industry itself – in fact, visiting a car specialist to purchase the right baby seat might lead to a whole new set of potential deals and discounts outside of the baby industry as well as expertise relating to specific car types and complimentary seat designs.
The car seat industry is one which heralds and markets one key product – the car seat. And while there are a large variety of designs and models available on the modern market with different aesthetic qualities and additional features, the concept and design is largely the same.
Car seat retailers tend to work by the guideline that children need a car seat from birth up until they are 12 years old OR 135cm tall – whichever of the two comes first. What this means is that a buyer or parent could be looking at between 2 and 3 different car seat designs to suit each stage of their child’s growth. And of the different designs, the earliest stage or car seat is by far the most versatile, largely suitable from birth up until the age of about two when your child will need to be carried around for the majority of the time.
This early design of car seat is the one which, in most models and products, doubles as a baby carrier as well as a car seat. Designed to be fitted as a rear facing seat, the earliest models can easily be slotted into and out of a permanent car base fixture, which allows the seat to be removed and used to carry and transport your baby without waking them up.
Why are infant and baby car seats rear facing? A rear facing seat spreads the force of a potential crash more evenly, with stats showing that babies up to 23 months old are 75% less likely to die or suffer serious injury in a rear facing car seat compared with a forward facing car seat.
Great examples of brands leading the infant and baby car seat market are Joie and Britax; both available through their own ecommerce stores, and through marketplace stores Halford, John Lewis and Argos among others where buyers can benefit from a range of different vouchers and deals depending on who they purchase their car seat from.
For those buyers looking for something which will last a little longer than the initial 24 months, there are manufacturers creating permanently fitted car seats which can be spun to be rear and forward facing, and which can hold a child from birth up to around 5 years of age. Though these will last longer, buyers should note that the seats are not removable and so you instantly lose the benefit of the car seat being able to be transformed into a carrier. A good example of a brand that allows for this longer growth span is Graco, available across major retailers like Halfords and Argos.
Moving forward to the next big jump in the child’s life – and the next new car seat that they will need to ensure complete safety – there are a few different options which you can choose from – namely the Combo seat which can take a child from the age of 2 up to the end of their car seat journey, and the Booster seat which is suitable for slightly older or larger children and which focuses on the support and protection of a well-fitting seat belt. The size of these larger models means they are not super portable or easy to install, but the safety features are second to none – with top brands for these types of car seats including Nania and Trunki and Cuggl. All of these brands and more are available at mainstream retailers and feature a wide range of designs that capture and engage the attention of the child as much as the parent – including popular cartoon characters and whimsical thematic images.
By far the biggest and most prominent trend in the car seat industry has been the growth and expansion of understanding around the safety of car seats and the way in which they promote and ensure the highest levels of safety for children. As a response to the legal requirement for a car seat for children under a certain age, the increase in market competition has been significant – with more and more brands appearing on the market offering new innovations and additional features to make the sector more appealing, more versatile and more attractive to the buyer.
Product launches in the car seat industry are largely influenced by the importance of safety testing and crash testing, calling on a completely different style of marketing and advertising compared to many other retail sectors – the focus on safety and ease of use rather than appearance or aesthetic value.
The fact is, proper use of high quality car seats can reduce the risk of death and serious injury by an extortionate percentage, and it is this plain and simple fact which drives most of the industry success. Word of mouth and testimonial goes a long way in good marketing for the car seat industry, with buyers likely to use brands and buy product models which have been recommended to them by other buyers – often friends and family, but sometimes celebrities, influencers and industry professionals as well.
There is a large market for car seats in televisual advertising and online marketplace advertising, with some of the best marketing opportunities being through physical baby accessory shows and events, instore marketing events, and longer adverts which provide sufficient time for the features and safety elements of the car seat to be fully explored and showcased.
Finding the right car seat for a baby means understanding the different features and deciding which model best suits your needs. With so many largescale retailers stocking and offering different products and models it has never been easier to find the right product, with a whole range of vouchers and deals available across the different retail sectors to make the purchase process a little more budget friendly.
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