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.
Virgin Megastore, Burbank, California
Virgin Megastore gets an A for effort and D+ for execution of children’s product at its Burbank, Cali-fornia store.
On the upside, it has a dedicated children’s zone away from the flashing lights and throbbing dance music that suffuses the rest of the store. The handsome fixtures are light wood-not the slick black elsewhere-and the merchandise is clearly targeted to the younger set.
Located near the multimedia products, the section includes a wide array of videos and far fewer CD-ROMs.
The children’s video selection is roughly divided into live-action and animated categories. On the live-action side, there’s an educational section with a plethora of Barney, Sesame Street and Muppets fare, and family films such as Amazing Panda Adventure, Casper and Flicka. Besides a Disney section with the usual Disney fare, Bugs Bunny tapes and titles based on the Jonny Quest television series can be found in the animated section. The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat (recommended for ages six and up) and Ren & Stimpy tapes may not be to every parent’s liking; the same g’es for the superher’es section. Endcaps promote Gamebreak! Timon & Pumbaa’s Jungle Games, Topsy Turvy: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Sing Along, along with Babe and Pocahontas. The pickings are much more slim for children’s CD-ROMs. There are three short shelves devoted to Macintosh titles and little more for PC product.
All in all, it’s a handsome, if limited display. But ask for assistance, and you could be in trouble. One recent weekend, none of the store’s three multimedia experts were working. ‘I don’t know why they don’t have them working on the weekends,’ one clerk said to another. Precisely.
Even more quixotic were some of the merchandising decisions. The Indian in the Cupboard, labeled for ages six and up, sits next to Man Parts and Junkyard Dykes, while the Muppets CD-ROM can be found nestled next to Battle Beast and other violence-heavy titles. The multimedia section includes play stations, but none specifically set up for kids. A new releases endcap features titles like Duke Nukem and Play-Doh Creations, plus a sizable selection of game and strategy CD-ROM titles.
And, if you don’t find what you want there, you can always walk across the parking lot to CompUSA.