I think I found something better than a corporate training video: a video full of commercials for the latest (for the most part) and greatest toys, hosted by children, and topped off with the catchiest jingle this side of “I wanna be a Toys R Us Kid!”
Except this isn’t Toys R Us.
But before we start…
New Month, New Theme!
June expands upon the previous theme of defunct retail (see related), with a look at retail marketing videos. First up, the videocassette as a marketing strategy to drive up profits during the critical holiday season.
Cruel Foreshadowing Ahead…
In the early 1990s, there were four major chain toy stores (several of which were East Coast fixtures) – Toys R Us, KB Toys, Lionel Kiddie City/Playworld, and Child World/Children’s Palace. By the early 1990s, two of these chains were dominating the toy store market, while two others…were not.
Guess which ones…and guess which one we’re looking at today!
Child World, Circa 1990
Massachusetts-based Child World, Inc., in business since 1962, operated a chain of stores under Children’s Palace beginning in 1977. This was the result of acquiring Kobacker Stores that year. I saw Child World commercials living in the Greater New York media market during the 1980s and 1990s (I even featured one as a Throwback Thursday commercial in 2016), but what it really came down to was Toys R Us (and KB Toys) dominated. It was a shame because all these other toy stores tried to be competitive, but at the end of the day, it was all about Geoffrey Giraffe and Wooden Soldiers selling toys. If your mascot was a Kangaroo or a Panda Bear, you weren’t really stiff competition.
In 1990, Child World Inc. was facing a recession that began in July of that year, no “must haves” like there were in previous years, and restricted capital, which resulted in vendors refusing to accept new orders.
And this was only the start of their problems. So…why not produce marketing materials that really show what Children’s Palace has to offer?
Video Toy Chest
For the holiday season that year (probably to show people they were still a force to be reckoned with in the market), Child World produced a “video wish list”-style marketing video called Video Toy Chest. It aimed to show consumers what Child World/Children’s Palace had to offer.
What it gives nostalgic viewers these days is a glimpse of what made the early 1990s so special.
Dolls, board games, vehicles, play kitchens, handheld games, Nintendo games. Lots of amazing stuff you probably remember well, and likely played with!
The video also has trivia questions, where children could get answers (which were within the video), and submitting answers to your local Child World or Children’s Palace could net you a trip to Disney World or a scholarship.
Oh, and this “Grandma” asked all the questions, while trying out various impersonations, among them Pee-Wee Herman and Billy Crystal.
Reminds me alot of the “Grandma” that wraps about loss prevention in the Ames Department Store training videos (story for another time!).
The commercials are intercut with segments of the kids running the television station that is producing this amazing video…
Gotta love the Victoria Jackson-type hair on the young lady next to our fearless director, J.D. (child actor J.D. Daniels).
There’s also “cultural” segments, a McGruff Public Service Announcement, mentions of baby wipes and Duracell batteries, and a guy named Robo-T, who accompanies kids in an interstitial segment. The Make-A-Wish foundation is also mentioned through a tie-in purchase that would result in a donation back to that foundation.
As kids, we ate this stuff up. As the adults we are now…we’re laughing at the cheesiness (especially from “Grandma” and Robo-T), but at the end of the day, Good Lord, the toys!
Trust me, it only gets great after the jingle!
Upload via Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words
See Much Less Toys Can Cost…and How Much More You Can Buy!
…and how unbelievable 37 minutes can be!
Upload via MrSurferPlus
In The End…
Did any of this make a difference for Children’s Palace/Child World?
Unfortunately, the company continued to face struggles, including its line of credit being revoked in April 1992, resulting in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. During that time, stores were closed, and the focus was on the store’s Northeast United States locations, which were (surprisingly) still profitable. The company spent the rest of 1992 and 1993 trying to secure a new line of credit. A failed merger with Lionel (parent company of the equally-struggling Kiddie City chain of toy stores) resulted in the company announcing in August 1993 that it would cease operations.
Within six weeks, the remaining 71 Child World/Children’s Palace stores closed, the legacy of the fourth-largest toy store in the country was over.
But we still have Video Toy Chest to remind us of how cool a marketing ploy can be!
Memories of Child World/Children’s Palace
Living in the New York media market (which served Southern New Jersey as far south as Ocean County), I saw commercials for Child World, but I’ve never shopped there. I don’t even recall one in our area. We had plenty of Toys R Us locations (two of which I shopped at), and there was a Lionel Kiddie City in Toms River, NJ in the Seacourt Pavilion (across the street from the Ocean County Mall) and KB Toys in both the Ocean County Mall and the Hamilton Mall (the two malls I went to most as a kid). I just have never seen a Child World location, let alone shop there.
And Now, You!
Do you remember Video Toy Chest, and make your wish list from the great toy commercials featured on the video? Did you ever shop at Child World/Children’s Palace? Sound off in the comments, or be social on social media. I’d love to hear from you!
Product/retail marketing videos month continues next week! Until then, have a great day!
Defunct retail was covered during March 2019, so this month’s theme is an expansion on that, featuring of corporate marketing and employee training. If you like that theme, check out the previous theme as well!
The Department Store With the Difference: The Story of Bradlees (March 5, 2019) – The story of east coast retailer Bradlees, the East Coast version of Target for its time…until declining sales and, well, Target, killed it.
Caldor: Where Shopping is Always A Pleasure (March 12, 2019) – The other east coast Target-style store, which lived up to shopping always being a pleasure. Declining sales and increased competition from a certain retailer that begins with a “W” and rhymes with “Hall Cart” ended this retailer’s legacy in the late 1990s.
Circuit City: Where Service Is State of the Art (March 19, 2019) – The big box electronics and appliance retailer was innovated by a store with a giant red plug for a sign…and killed by the competition in the late 2000s.
Montgomery Ward: The Brand Name Savings Store (March 26, 2019) – The Chicago-based retailer that had one of the members of Delta House as their spokesperson (guess which one!), as well as an amazing loss prevention training video. This store began as a catalog-based business, took on the brick-and-mortar concept, and went back to its roots in catalogs, albeit digitally. Defunct in its original concept, only to see somewhat of a revival in more recent years.