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.
Fry’s Electronics, South Bay and Burbank, California
There’s a reason Fry’s Electronics is so popular among Southern California’s techno-minded. And it’s not the service-which can be spotty-but the sheer diversity of product. Carrying everything from cell phones to computer-chip earrings and countless SIMM configurations, Fry’s serves a wide array of electronic needs at low prices.
The children’s software collection is no less impressive. At the Polynesian-themed South Bay store-the first Fry’s in the metro Los Angeles area-the CD-ROM and gaming aisles feed directly from the entrance. Not too surprisingly, the titles closest to the aisle are shoot-’em-up gorefests targeted to preteen boys and up. That’s where you’ll find Duke Nukem and Doom II, to mention a few popular titles. Opposite the PC aisle-Macintosh and PC products are separated by aisle to minimize confusion-there are three play stations. The children’s edutainment titles are further up the aisle and filled with a variety of product ranging from Disney titles to Davidson & Associates’ Math Blaster.
There are clerks milling about and, if you ask, they can be fairly helpful. One clearly knew more about game-oriented products for teens-the industry’s prime demographic-and less about younger girls. The Mac specialist, however, had more suggestions for the underserved girls market.
Unlike the South Bay store, where merchandising is pretty much limited to rack cards announcing new games, the sprawling new Burbank location has endcap displays, bins of Madeline products, and an interactive TV display with previews of Gamebreak! Timon & Pumbaa’s Jungle Games and Earthworm Jim, along with adult-oriented titles. There’s also a lot more CD-ROM products broken down into categories such as action/arcade, mystery and education. Disney releases occupy a prime end location on both education aisles (Mac and PC), and include the Toy Story CD-ROM, along with Lion King and Pocahontas versions. Other prominent children’s titles include Fisher-Price A-B-Cs, Freddi Fish and Putt-Putt.
The Burbank store, which is decorated in a ’50s sci-fi theme, also has family videos in a smallish department. It has a groovy diner complete with cars you can eat in, à la Pulp Fiction, and a big screen playing sci-fi classics such as The Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, which is guaranteed to be a hit with the family crowd.
If you know what to look for, Fry’s is a must-stop shopping experience.