MARKET CONSIDERATIONS

Competitive Environment

asdsadsaasdWhen considering the introduction of a new product to the marketplace, one of the factors that should be considered is the competitive environment. Efforts should be made to learn what existing competitors are offering to their customers and the customers’ wants and needs. A new product introduction can be an improved or modified version of an existing product or it can be a totally new product innovation. In either case, the competitive environment should be studied to determine the existence of similar or identical products.

The inventor has disclosed a belief that this product concept is original; we have relied on this information when preparing this report. We conduct a necessarily limited check of the marketplace for competitive products. An in-depth investigation is not possible as there is no definite way to assure that an idea or product has not been tried or thought of in the past or is not now in use somewhere in our country or elsewhere. In addition, the competitive environment changes daily. Old products disappear; new ones appear. Seasonal trends also influence the availability of products. While a check of the marketplace may turn up nothing today, a similar product may already be produced and on its way to a distributor. A new product may even be on the drawing board in preparation of actual manufacture, and of course there would be no way for us to know of its existence. A competitive product may also be available within a specific geographical market area or available only on a limited basis as part of a test marketing program, so it is possible that neither the inventor nor InventHelpSM would be able to locate competitive products.

In preparing our Basic Information Package reports, we generally review catalogs for the existence of similar products. In conduction such a spot-check for “BELLA GUARD”, we did not find an existing competitive product on the market.

Benefits, Appeals, and Trends

Manu factors influence the acceptance of a product in the marketplace. Two of the major factors relate to the needs a product fulfills (the benefits) and a desire to own that product (the appeal and/or combination of these factors). Also important are the trends pertaining to the invention. Within this section of our Information Summary, we will consider the various benefits, appeals and trends which relate to “BELLA GUARD”.

Despite the existence of laws in all 50 states requiring the use of car safety seats or child restraint devices for young children, more children are still killed as passengers in car crashes than from any other type of injury. In 2000, 539 children under 5 years of age died while riding in motor vehicles. Of those 529 fatalities, an estimated 251 (47 percent) were totally unrestrained.

Research on the effectiveness of child safety seats has found them to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (less than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. For infants and toddlers in light trucks, the corresponding reductions are 58 percent and 59 percent, respectively. From 1975 through 2000, an estimated 4,816 lives were saved by the use of child restraints. In 2000, an estimated 316 children under age 5 were saved as a result of restraint use. If all motor vehicle occupants under 5 years old were protected by child safety seats, an estimated 458 lives could have been saved in 2000.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, an estimated 85 percent of children who are placed in child safety seats and booster seats are improperly restrained. Misuse includes but in not limited to using an inappropriate seat for the child’s age and size, placing an infant who is either under 1 year old or under 20 pounds in a forward-facing seat, not securing the seat tightly in the vehicle, and not securing the child correctly in the seat.

Parents who are choosing a car seat for their baby or young child should first familiarize themselves with the different types of seats that are on the market. Infant seats are used rear-facing for babies from birth to a maximum weight of 20 or 22 pounds. Rear-facing seats should be used as long as possible (at least until the child is 1 year old). The rear-facing position is the safest orientation in a frontal crash. Infant seats can double as carriers that snap into a base strapped into a vehicle. An infant seat can also be used without the base, but then the user must reinstall it every time it is used as a carrier.

Convertible or infant/toddler car seats can be used rear-facing for babies, typically with a maximum weight of 30 or 35 pounds (which allows the child to remain rear-facing longer). They can then be used forward-facing for babies over 1 year old who weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. These seats have no separate base and cannot double as an infant carrier.

The toddler/booster seat is used with an internal harness for toddlers weighing from 20 to 40 pounds. It can be used as a booster with the vehicle’s safety belt for older children weighing about 40 to 80 pounds. When used as a booster seat, it is vital that a snug fit of the vehicle’s safety belt is maintained.

The final type of car safety seat is the booster seat, used for children weighing about 40 to 80 pounds who are not tall enough to use an adult safety belt. The booster essentially raises the child so the vehicle’s seat belt comes across his hips and the middle of his chest. If a child is placed in an adult belt (without a booster) too early, he is at risk of slipping out of the belt during an accident of having the poorly fitted adult seat belt cause serious internal injuries. Backless boosters are suitable for use in vehicles with tall seatbacks. Boosters with a back should be used if the vehicle’s seatback is short. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have booster seat laws that require older children to use appropriate child safety seats.

In an effort to make car seats safer and easier to use, forward-facing child seats now include a tether that can be fastened to an anchor beyond the vehicle’s seatback in the rear seating area. Soon, all new cars will have permanent metal pins for child car seat installation. The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system is designed to make installation of child safety seats easier by requiring seats to be installed without using the vehicle’s seat belt system.

All new forward-facing child safety seats (not including booster seats) must meet stricter head protection requirements, which call for the use of the top tether strap. This adjustable strap is attached to the back of a child safety seat. It has a hook for securing the seat to a tether anchor found either on the rear shelf of the vehicle or in the case of minivans and station wagons, on the rear floor or on the back of the rear seat of the vehicle. Two rear seating positions of all cars, minivans and light trucks now come equipped with lower child safety seat anchorage points located between a vehicle’s seat cushion and seatback. All child safety seats now have two attachments that connect to the vehicle’s lower anchorage attachment points. Together, the lower anchors and upper tethers make up the LATCH system.

Mr. Lehr has designed a modified car seat that would provide added safety by including a warning system that would alert parents when the child or the car seat was not properly secured in the vehicle. Use of the “BELLA GUARD” could reduce parental anxiety and tension, as well as eliminate the need to continually visually check (while traveling) to see if the children are safely buckled in their seats. Ultimately, the “BELLA GUARD” could save lives by allowing the safety harness to restrain the youngster (or the seat belt or LATCH attachments to restrain the car seat) in the event of an accident.

Child demographics certainly influence the potential market for child car seats; therefore, it is important to note current birthrates and associated trends. Births in the U.S. move in cycles, reflecting the number of women of childbearing age and the likelihood of those women to have children. The 1950s and early 1960s saw the original baby boom, with an all-time high of 4.3 million births recorded in 1957. Following this peak, births began a long and gradual descent, bottoming out in 1973 with an annual total of just 3.14 million births.

Births increased steadily from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, forming the echo boom. The annual number of births in the U.S. exceeded 4 million in 1994 and decreased slightly though 1997. At that time, the number of women in their 20s—the primary childbearing years—began to increase, driving a new cycle of births.

The number of births in the United States was essentially unchanged for 2002—4,021,726 compared with 4,025,933 in 2001. Between 1990, the most recent high point, and 1997, the most recent low point, the number of births declined 7 percent. Then number of births increased 5 percent between 1997 and 2000, but has declined slightly since.

While the overall number of births for 2002 was unchanged, quite different trends were observed by race and Hispanic origin. Births to non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black women fell 1 t 2 percent, whereas Hispanic births rose 3 percent. American Indian and Asian or Pacific Islanders (API) also rose, by 1 and 5 percent. Among the API subgroups, increases ranged from 2 percent for Japanese and Filipino, to 7 percent for Chinese births. Among Hispanics, the number of Puerto Rican births was essentially unchanged in 2002, but increases were reported for all other groups, from 2 percent for Cuban to 7 percent for “other” Hispanic women. The growing number of births to racial and ethnic minorities means that multicultural marketing will be increasingly important to the success of baby and child care products and services.

The average age of mothers giving birth to their first child reached an all-time high in 2002 at 25.1 years. The overall U.S. birthrate (number of births per 1,000 total population) fell to the lowest rate ever recorded in 2002, 13.9 per 1,000 total population. Since 1990, first birth rates have declined for women under age 30, but have risen for women age 30 and older. Birth rates in 2002 for women age 35 to 39 (41.4 births per 1,000) and 40 to 44 (8.3 per 1,000) were the highest in more than 3 decades.

The family is a vital institution in American society. To measure the demographic changes and characteristics of families, the Census Bureau developed two different conceptual universes. Family households are identified when there are members of the household related to the householder (the person who owns or rents the residence). Traditionally, family households have accounted for a large majority of households—81 percent of households in 1970 were family households, but by 2000, family households made up only 69 percent of all households. The most noticeable trend during this period was the decline in the proportion of married-couple households with their own children, from 40 percent of all households in 1970 to 24 percent in 2000. In contrast, the proportion of households that were made up of married couples without children remained relatively stable over the period—29 percent in 2000 and 30 percent in 1970. The third family household component—families whose householder has no spouse present, but with other relatives, including children—increased from 11 percent in 1970 to 16 percent in 2000.

Living arrangements influence children’s daily interactions with adult role models and can affect the potential economic resources available for such things as education, personal development, and extracurricular activities. One particularly influential characteristic is whether children are living with two married parents. Studies have shown that children living with two married parents have more daily interactions, such as eating meals together and talking or playing, than those living with two unmarried parents. Other aspects of children’s lives appear to be affected more by the number of parents available than by parents’ marital status.

The Census Bureau’s count of family units, regardless of whether the householder is in the “family,” s a count of “family groups.” In 2000, there were 72 million family households and 76 million family groups. Both the number and the composition of family groups have changed over the years. In 1970, there were 30 million family groups including children in the U.S., compared with 37 million in 2000. Of these, the proportion that contained a married-couple mother and father dropped from 87 percent in 1970 to 69 percent in 1995. The proportion of single-mother families grew to 26 percent in 2000 from 12 percent in 1970. Single-father families grew to 5 percent by 2000, from a mere 1 percent in 1970.

Several demographic trends have affected the shift from two-parent to one-parent families. A larger proportion of births now occur to unmarried women compared with the 1960s and 1970s, increasing the proportion of never-married parents. The number of births to unmarried women rose to 1,365966 in 2002, a 1 percent increase compared to 2001 (1,349,249), and the highest number ever reported in the more than six decades for which comparable data are available. The percentage of all births to unmarried women was 34 percent in 2002. This percent has increased very slowly in recent years, from 32.4 in 1996/1997 to 34.0 in 2002.

A partial explanation for increases in births to unmarried women in recent years is that the trend to delay marriage also increased the likelihood of a nonmarital birth, because adults remained single for more years. The birth rate for unmarried women was essentially unchanged in 2002, at 43.7 births per 1,000 unmarried women age 15 to 44 years, compared with 43.8 in 2001. The rate has changed little since 1995, ranging from 42.9 (1997) to 44.3 (1995). Since the birth rate for unmarried women has been essentially stable, increases in the number of nonmarital births since 1995 are due almost entirely to the 10 percent rise in the number of unmarried women of childbearing age. Another factor in the rise of single-parent families was the growth in divorce among couples with children. These trends have important implications for the well-being of children and the programs and policies that relate to welfare, family leave, and other areas of work and family life.

The increase in single-parent families is reflected in another demographic trend in the U.S.—the majority of new mothers return to the labor force within 12 months of giving birth. Single motherhood, along with the reliance of married households on two paychecks and increased professional opportunities for women, resulted in a significant decrease in the number of stay-at-home moms. In 1976, when the Census Bureau first began t track the trend, the labor force participation rate for women with infants was 31 percent. After reaching an all-time high of 59 percent in 1998, the rate dropped slightly to 55 percent in 2000. Significant declines in labor force participation rates occurred in this period among women who were most likely to be in a position to take time off from earning an income: older mothers between the ages of 30 and 44, married women living with their husbands, and women with at least one year of college. By contrast, there was no significant decline among younger mothers (under age 30), African American mothers, Hispanic mothers, and mothers who had a high school education or less. Whether these diverging trends are short-lived or will continue depends to a considerable extent on future changes in the economy and changes in the lifestyles of new mothers in balancing their time between work and child-rearing activities.

With more single women becoming parents, more women delaying childbirth, and more women working outside the home, today’s parents put a high premium on convenience and time savings. Today’s parents value practicality, style, and safety when choosing baby and child care products, and are willing to spend more to get what they want.