Monday, September 10, 2012

Tablets R Us

Does your child really need a tablet?

Will the Tabeo become the must-have baby shower gift of the future?

Toys R Us is being squeezed by the likes of Wal-Mart, which has also taken to selling toys at low, low prices. That being what Toys R Us does, it's been stiff competition.

When a company is facing that sort of competition at the price level, it has to find some other niche to set it apart, and for reasons unknown, the suits who run Toys R Us decided that a tablet device was the answer.

The Tabeo is aimed at children and will be available only at Toys R Us. There'll be no price code scanning on your smartphone with a link appearing that takes you to a competitor selling it cheaper. If your child must have a Tabeo, you must buy from Toys R Us.

And once you've gone to the big box toy store for that Tabeo, you'll buy whatever else you might need because you'll consider the price of fuel to power your car to another store where a few things might be less dear, if not for the petrol you'd have to burn to get there.

A few more pennies into the Toys R Us pocket, but when your focus is deep discounts, the profit is made in volume and slim margins.

So you're sitting there wondering what the toy merchant could do to a tablet to make it different and more desirable than all the other tablets that are out there. It's not as if it's the only tablet running on Google's Android system.

As Ann Zimmerman pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, parents are likely to pass down their old tablet to the wee little ones while they upgrade to the latest version of the iPad. If they can avoid spending more money, they will, and hand-me-downs have long been a staple of cost-cutting at home.

One thing Toys R Us can do is build in parental controls for web surfing, but then again, it's easy enough to set those controls on your own. Parents would also find educational games appealing, but there are plenty of games geared towards children already. Can Toys R Us really invent something so compelling that it will drive sales?

It sounds like a case of hopping on the bandwagon after the circus has already been through town. Two years ago, it might have made a difference. Now, with money as tight as ever, it's unlikely that another electronic device will save Toys R Us from extinction.

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