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.
Computer City, Paramus, New Jersey
Computer City is one of those daunting computer megastores that’s the type of place where computer dweebs plan to picnic and technophobes approach with fear and loathing.
The cavernous, 28,000-square-foot store in Paramus, New Jersey, is one of over 100 stores in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The store has the warmth of a sterile hospital room, but what it lacks in coziness, it makes up in volume. It is divided into three areas: hardware, software and accessories. One software aisle is exclusively dedicated to children’s products.
The aisle, called Kidstuff, is the only aisle in the store with any sense of flair and easily stands out with a decor of primary colors and a bright, lit up sign announcing the section.
Four monitors perched above the aisle run software demos and four computers (three PCs and one Mac)-set up to accommodate children more than parents-allow customers to sample software. A department manager said that these demo disks greatly influence sales, and wishes that CD-ROM manufacturers would send more.
The software is displayed by age groups. However, prices for the store’s 200 to 300 kids products are not marked on the box, and shelf tags are lacking, or aren’t where they are supposed to be. The store hopes to offset this problem by displaying product vertically for better eye appeal, easier maintenance and easier price display.
Store clerks’ knowledge of computers and software ranges from above-average to expert, and they seem helpful and friendly to both the tech-savvy and confused neophytes.
End-aisle displays weren’t anything special. While dedicated to specific manufacturers, and mostly promoting value-priced merchandise, there
didn’t appear to be any significant emphasis (such as manufacturer support) attached to these displays.
Computer City has a full range of kids software. Naming its children’s section Kidstuff helps to make the aisle seem like its own little boutique in an otherwise drab-looking store. The prices are competitive (they’ll refund the difference from another store 110 percent), the workers are clued in to computers and the demo computers are definitely an advantage. The software could probably be displayed better, and only the Disney product, because of its packaging, really grabs the eye.