As we begin a New Year and look ahead to the New York Baby Show, coming up on May 14 and 15 in New York City, New York Family will be publishing a series of interviews with executives at some of the most influential companies in the baby industry to discuss important trends and news of interest to expectant and new parents. The chats are meant to be helpful and informative to consumers, but there’s a bonus: It’s also just nice to hear from the people in charge, who, not surprisingly, are as passionate about their products as the parents who use them.
Brad Mattarocci is the General Manager of Baby Trend, one of the largest family-owned companies making all kinds of baby gear, from stroller travel systems and car seats to bouncers and walkers.
New York Family: What big trend is top-of-mind right now?
Mattarocci: I think consumers should be aware of two important changes to the law, both of which have to do with car seats.
The first is the LATCH 65 rule that was introduced in February 2014, which basically said that people should stop using the LATCH when the combined weight of the car seat and child exceeds 65 pounds. This rule can be very confusing for consumers.
NYF: Right…A parent has to constantly be thinking, how much does my child weigh today? How much does the car seat weigh? What was the combined total again?
BM: Some groups would like to see this be revisited. Another important change will be a new side impact standard. NHTSA’s (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) new crash standard will have a big effect. A lot of car seats will change in response to it. We haven’t seen a lot of innovation in car seats in the last year and a half because, as an industry, we weren’t fully sure what the standards would be. We’ve been in this wait-and-see mode. But once the new standards are out, within the next six months, then you’ll see a mad rush with everybody revamping their lines with a new generation of car seats. So we welcome the new standard. The industry has been working with NHTSA to make sure the standards reflect real-world crash tests, so to speak, and first and foremost, that the standards promote safety.
NYF: Beyond standards, how important is installation?
BM: Right. We all make good car seats, but really the safest car seat is the one that’s properly installed.
NYF: You have had a role in discussing the new car seat standards?
BM: Yes, I’m a board member of the JPMA [Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association]. I’m also on the steering committee, with Britax, Graco, Evenflo and others, who meet with NHTSA quarterly to discuss these issues.
NYF: What’s your professional background? Have you always worked in baby gear?
BM: The first part of my career, I was in aviation. I ran a company that distributed spare plane parts for 12 years, and then got out after 9/11, when the airlines stopped paying their bills and weren’t buying a lot of spare parts. Then I was a business consultant for four years, helping companies streamline and turn more profitable, and that’s where I met the owner of Baby Trend. And Baby Trend is still one of the largest privately held family businesses in the industry.
NYF: How long have you been there?
BM: I’ve been the General Manager running the business for ten years, and have developed and designed several successful lines of car seats and strollers, and we’re one of the main players in the industry.
NYF: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
BM: What we’ve been talking about today. I’m most proud of the safety we’ve brought to car seats. We are really into car seats. We have a full line of car seats. And when we receive letters from parents showing us the pictures of their demolished cars, and thanking us for how our car seats protect their children…it touches your heart. We get that all the time, and I’m really proud of that. You know, I have three kids and I’m really proud to say that we’re saving lives.
NYF: What’s the hardest part of your job?
BM: The hardest part? Staying ahead of the curve. You always have to be looking three to five years ahead, constantly. And ours is one of the most regulated channels on the market–consumer products and especially baby products. In my experience, it’s more regulated than aviation.
NYF: There’s a statement.
BM: Kids, parents, and products: There are a lot of factors. The challenge is to design effective and safe products that meet all the regulations.
NYF: What’s next?
BM: A few things come to mind. The trend [in shopping] has been from brick and mortar [i.e., stores] to online. But then some people go back to brick and mortar, so that’s all still evolving.
NYF: That’s actually a good metaphor for my business. Some people say print is dead and you have to meet everyone on their phones. But some people still want print and some people want both. So you have to be everywhere, including in person, which is one of the drivers behind The New York Baby Show, now the largest consumer show in the county for expectant and new parents.
BM: Exactly. And as far as the big trend I see coming—it’s smart products. So we’re working on new products that will—I can’t share too much—but what I’ll say is the government wants to see qualities better recall effectiveness, better registration, how can we not leave baby cars and have them die of hypothermia, and so I’m working on plan to meld all of those aspects across our product line.
NYF: I look forward to hearing more when you’re ready.
BM: For sure.
For more information about Baby Trend, and to discover their full product line, visit babytrend.com!