In our first special report on retail, KidScreen assigned four reporters in four different U.S. centers-New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tucson-to examine and rate the merchandising of children’s interactive software and videos. They looked at everything from customer service to in-store displays to the way companies were branding their products at the retail level. We included major chains and small independent stores, computer specialty shops and bookstores.
Toys ‘R’ Us, Paramus, New Jersey
In a retail-dense environment, Toys ‘R’ Us is not typically the first choice when purchasing CD-ROM software. However, less picky parents will discover that the 650-plus chain of toy stores has a surprising amount of software at competitive prices.
Toys ‘R’ Us is about inventory. Toys, games and much more seem packed to the rafters, perhaps to overwhelm kids’ senses. The 30,000-square-foot Paramus store is no exception.
The software section is modest in size, filling one side of an aisle (about 30 feet), but not modest in quantity. The section, marked by a ‘Software for Kids’ sign set at adult eye level, is located near the front of the store though it is somewhat obstructed by products in other aisles.
Unlike other sections of the stores, inventory is kept off the floor to ensure loss prevention and minimize damaged product, according to a clerk. Instead, the store makes use of ‘Vidpros,’ thin, plastic, two-sided display casings containing a sheet listing the software’s essential information, including computer requirements, age range and activity type, color-coded by computer (yellow: IBM, blue: Mac, magenta: both). An enlarged sample explaining Vidpro information is mounted above the software section.
Customers wanting to purchase a product take a ticket attached to the vidpro to the cashier. No tickets remaining means the software is out of stock, and is so noted.
Arranged four deep and 36 across, the store has about 150 software products, and about 10 percent were out of stock. Their selection appears more educationally oriented than game-oriented.
A monitor set up to preview new products sits at the end-aisle display, but was not working.
The clerks (mostly teens) who help maintain the department have a general computer knowledge, but lack specifics on individual software.
Toys ‘R’ Us is not the first place customers will go to purchase software, most likely because of the lack of expertise, but Toys ‘R’ Us has a solid amount of product and will meet other stores’ prices. Customers will not be wasting their time shopping for children’s software at Toys ‘R’ Us.