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.
Noodle Kidoodle, Chicago, Illinois
Noodle Kidoodle takes the Disney approach to marketing. Walking into this large Chicago store-part of a growing chain of kids stores (23 to date)-was like entering the Magic Kingdom with multicolored lighting fixtures criss-crossing the ceiling and departments marked with bright hanging signs. A sign hung in the back of the store announced ‘Computer Software: oodles and oodles of chips and bits.’ Book and video sections flanked the area, a move, explained a sales clerk who appeared within moments, to foster cross-over promotions.
Displays decked the section. A 3-D Woody and Buzz stood arm-in-arm with a pile of Toy Story CD-ROMs-which reportedly sold out in a week and a half when the display first went up-as well as discounted ‘value added’ CD-ROM titles and mouse pads that covered a pillar seven feet high. Two large racks contained CD-ROM titles for Mac and PC, divided accordingly; another row was devoted to accessory screen savers and diskette programs.
For a six-year-old girl, the clerk recommended a number of highly interactive programs including Humongous Entertainment’s Freddi Fish or Creative Wonders’ Madeline. He gave some of the Discovery and Disney titles a thumbs down for being monotonous or lacking replayability. A bit of a computer nerd, he admitted he played everything he could and obviously had formed critical opinions; he boasted that he wouldn’t recommend a program unless the package clearly marked the computer hardware specifications.
The teen CD-ROMs were limited to few titles like Myst, an NBA title and X-Wing, which was the closest thing to anything violent. All of these could have been better organized on the shelf. Next to the section stood a demo station, which was built as a fanciful circular play station encasing three PCs and two Macs so that only the screens and keyboards were visible. While the demo list wasn’t exhaustive, most of the popular titles could be tried. A father, who was sitting there with his daughter, commented that this was his first time in the store. ‘This is unbelievable,’ he said. ‘This is the best setup I’ve ever seen.’