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.
Circuit City, Chicago, Illinois
From reading the Circuit City ad supplement, it seemed as if the kids software selection would be decent and a good buy. But for a discount chain that proclaims ‘Where service is the state of the art,’ the attention paid to the kids software was sorely disappointing.
After wandering through the warehouse maze of electronic merchandise, banks of TVs flickering in tandem and stereo-lined walls at this Chicago location, a small black sign reading ‘Software’ flagged the section.
Children’s CD-ROMs filled half of one side of a rack. In place of any promotions was a foreboding sign, warning that only unopened software could be returned because of viruses and software licensing laws, an admonition that was not only intimidating, but also seemed unjust considering that there was no separation between Mac and PC titles.
Not only was the selection paltry, limited to a few popular titles, but the division between violent teen games and kids games was non-existent: Toy Story was a mere inches away from Ripper, a mature title targeted at 17 and older; Winnie the Pooh was side by side with Wing Commander 2; and Where’s Waldo sat near MTV’s Beavis & Butt-head in Virtual Stupidity.
Boxes were sloppily arranged, and large gaps were on the shelf where titles had sold out. A pair of twins crouched in the aisle were opening a Toy Story box and rummaging through its contents. Fifteen minutes passed before a salesperson had to be beckoned to recommend something for a six-year-old girl.
‘The best thing about this is that they put the ages on them,’ she said nervously, grabbing a copy of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? off the shelf. When she noticed the sticker on the box suggesting an older age bracket, she put it back. No, she hadn’t played any of these, and frankly, she said, a store down the street offered a much better selection.