Is enabling young kids to buy toys online a teaching tool or something else?
Even with action figures and collectibles having a sizable following among adults these days, toy stores are still mostly built on getting kids to beg their parents to buy them something. Small toy store chain Camp NYC, however, has launched a new model that not only puts the buying power in the hands of the children, but gets them hooked on online shopping early.
Kids as young as three can shop independently online at Camp NYC if their parents set up an account on the store’s just-launched “Present Shop” section, according to The Wall Street Journal. Parents designate who the child can purchase toys for (themselves, friends, family members, etc.) and set a budget, after which children can shop with limited oversight.
While Amazon.com has had a similar service in place since 2017, that service is targeted toward kids aged 13 to 17. Camp NYC envisions the new service as the e-commerce version of parents giving their kids money to spend at the mall.
Moves by retailers aimed at turning children into online shoppers are controversial, the Journal reports. Children’s advocates have raised alarms about privacy concerns and social risks as companies like Facebook, for instance, have started trying to bring very young people into the fold of their user bases.
Camp NYC launched in Manhattan’s Flatiron District in 2018. The store’s first location features immersive in-store experiences, such as a space featuring a light-up dance floor and a stage for improvised performances, all of which are only accessible behind a secret wall in the toy store.
Retailers that depended on in-store experience as a draw were, however, negatively impacted as the novel coronavirus pandemic restricted how they were able to conduct business beginning in March 2020. Such realities may have pushed retailers like Camp NYC to look more creatively at e-commerce offerings.
The retailer’s COVID-19 FAQ page indicates that stores had been closed in accordance with local guidelines but are now slowly allowing visitors back in with safety protocols in place.
The retailer now has five locations, three of which are in New York City, one in Connecticut and one in Dallas, according to the company’s website.
- Toy Retailer Rolls Out Online Shopping for Kids as Young as 3 – The Wall Street Journal
- Camp brings a playground to retail – RetailWire
- Camp – Camp.com
- Camp COVID-19 FAQ – Camp.com
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Present Shop prove successful for Camp NYC, or is it more likely to create a backlash against the retailer? What are the benefits and drawbacks of incentivizing children to shop online and where should retailers draw the line between meeting a consumer need and exploiting an unsophisticated audience?