Kids. They might be shy of 3ft tall, but these tiny people can have a seriously big impact on your business.

Get it right and you could see your sales soar as parents choose your store over your other less child-friendly competitors; get it wrong and you could lose out big time as families steer clear.

It's a fact that parents with small children are incredibly loyal shoppers. They have to be; it's about survival. We've all seen a tot in a full-blown temper tantrum and, let's face it, it's not a pretty sight. But making your store child-friendly is about so much more than just installing a ramp to make getting in and out easier.

So, let's start at the beginning with doors. C-Store's research revealed that heavy, narrow doors are mums' number one bug-bear when it comes to shopping in convenience stores especially when pushchairs are involved.

In fact, all of the mums we spoke to said they would rather pass by their local store and walk to one further away if it had wider, less cumbersome doors.

One retailer who is reaping the benefits of a good set of doors is Vinod Mashru, owner of Bright News in Brighton, East Sussex.

Vinod recently decided to widen his doorway to make it easier for people with pushchairs (and wheelchairs) to enter. "Before we did that parents used to have to take their children out of their pushchairs and leave the buggies outside, which was clearly a huge hassle and we probably lost quite a bit of business as a result," he said.

Vinod also took the decision to widen his aisles to make it easier for parents to navigate the store once inside a move which has resulted in wide grins from local parents.

Narrow, cluttered aisles are the second biggest gripe that parents have with smaller stores, says Emma Shipman of parenting advice website

"Part of the problem with smaller stores is that because they have less space they often try to pack in as much as they can and clog them up with separate buckets of promotional items at an angle which catch the wheels of pushchairs," she says.

The message is clear you don't need to make a massive structural change to your store. Removing or taking extra care when positioning dump bins is all that's required.

Budgens retailer Binda Tatla of Hampton Hill, Middlesex, has gone one step further. By changing his delivery times he has ensured that aisles are pushchair perfect at all hours of the day. "We used to get the first delivery of the day at 9am, which coincided with the start of the school day when lots of parents pop in to grab a drink or snack for their kids. The aisles used to get really congested and it was quite stressful for the parents and also for the staff who were trying to re-stock. We now have our first delivery at 5.30am when there is no one around," he says.

Another area where convenience stores often get bogged down, as it were, is toilets. The issue of providing toilet facilities for customers is a tricky one, which many retailers choose to steer clear of. However, there is clearly a difference between allowing Joe Public to use your facilities, and a mum and her desperate child. Spilt milk is bad enough, but piddle on your parquet is a no go.

Vinod and Binda agree that a common sense approach to this more delicate of problems is best. "We always let children use our toilets even if they are not customers," says Vinod. "We even have a slightly lower level loo to make it easier for the little ones to use. The parents really appreciate it. It's little things like that which build loyalty and ensure that people keep on coming back."

Trolley dash

Low-level toilets aside, there are plenty of other changes that retailers can make to their stores which require hardly any extracost or effort.

Binda is still thanking his lucky stars for the day he decided to order a batch of wheelie baskets. "Kids just love pulling the wheelie baskets around the store and helping their parents with the shopping," Binda says. "It allows them to be part of the shopping experience. I had one customer tell me that he specifically came to our store because he knew his little boy enjoyed wheeling the basket around."

Now, clearly allowing children to tow baskets of groceries around the store can throw up its fair share of difficulties yes, they do crash the baskets into shelves and, of course, they try to climb into them, but Binda doesn't view all this as problematic. "If you truly want to be seen as a child-friendly store than you need to have a child-friendly attitude," he explains.

Binda believes that the way in which retailers react to awkward situations in their stores is crucial. "Last week a little boy knocked over a promotional display of toilet roll and sent it flying all over the place. However, we just laughed and made a game of putting it all back again. We turned what could have been an embarrassing situation for the child and his mother into something funny and it was very much appreciated. We could have lost a customer, but now I'm pretty sure that we've gained a really loyal one," he says.

However, ask any parent what the worst part of a trip to the shops is and their answer will undoubtably be "the checkout". The till area can be something of a minefield for parents and their children. The lure of sweet treats in direct reach can spark explosive outbursts, so stores which display these sympathetically at the till really are a Mecca for mums.

However, it's the whole process of packing and paying where parents and their kids can really run into difficulties. The good news is that just a few simple words from staff at the till is often all it takes to avert disaster. "A top tip is to involve children in the process," adds's Shipman. "Talk to them, ask them about their day," she advises. "A smile and a few well placed words really can make a world of difference."

Binda certainly agrees. "Children can get bored at the checkout so we always try to make it interesting for them," he says. "We often hand the change or the receipt to the children rather than the parents to make them feel important.

"At the end of the day, happy kids plus relaxed parents equals better sales for us. It's very much a win-win situation."