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.
Interact!, Pasadena, California
At too many computer stores, getting good customer service is harder than flagging a cab during New York City rush hour. Any clerk you find is already taken.
That’s why Interact! CD-ROM store is so refreshing. Staffers at the Pasadena, California, store actually seek you out, instead of the other way around. After walking in the door, it’s not long before those four magic words-’Can I help you?’-travel from their lips to your ears. Take him (and most employees seem to be male) up on his offer, and you won’t be sorry. Whether the software’s geared to a seven-year-old or 17-year-old, educational or arcade, they’ve probably tried it out. Even if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, they can nimbly guide you through the selection process, offering reminders about system requirements along the way.
It’s also the kind of place where staffers will let you know the same title you’re about to buy new can be found in the used section. Small wonder the store has already doubled in size during its short lifespan, moving from a side street in Pasadena’s bustling Old Town district halfway across town to a tony shopping area near CalTech University.
The store is divided in half by platform, with PC/IBM titles on the left and Macintosh on the right. Children’s titles fill the center section and are separated into five age levels in addition to platform. Each shelf has a surprising variety of titles-approximately 20 each-but few multiple copies.
Endcap displays highlight a combo pack with both Where in the World/Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? and Fisher-Price’s Ready for School series and Pantsylvania. Snoopy and Big Bird packs teeter on top of the section.
Titles geared to teens and preteens are mixed throughout the rest of the store. Popular games such as Earthworm Jim, Duke Nukem, MTV’s Beavis and Butt-head in Virtual Stupidity are all there, along with window displays for Warcraft II and Spycraft. Play stations near the counter have product like the cockroach game, Bad Mojo, ready and waiting for a test spin.
On the downside, prices are a little higher than at some chains, so bargain hunters might pick up the latest hot release at a mass-merchant instead. But if informed service and hassle-free shopping for computer software are what they’re after, Interact! is the place to be.