New York-based toy retailer Camp NYC Inc. is adding an e-commerce feature to its website that lets kids as young as 3 years old shop for gifts and check out with minimal adult oversight.
Parents and other adults in a child’s life can set a budget on Camp’s website, designate the recipient and fill out shipping and payment information. Camp then sends the adults a one-time code and link that children can use to do their own shopping. The new feature, called the Present Shop, goes live Monday.
The idea is for kids to be able to buy something for friends, family members or themselves without requiring further signoff from an adult. The platform guides children through the shopping experience and filters the items it shows by asking questions such as what types of toys the gift recipient likes.
has offered a similar service since 2017 but that is aimed at older kids, ages 13 to 17. Their parents can approve every order or set spending limits to automatically authorize purchases.
Camp’s Present Shop is meant to echo giving kids money to spend in a mall, said
the company’s chief executive and co-founder.
“We feel like that system has always existed in the real world of retail, but it’s never existed in the world of e-commerce because of all the complexities,” Mr. Kaufman said.
Camp opened its first store in 2018 in Manhattan with a plan to use in-store events, such as comedy shows and workshops dedicated to summer camp, to get a foothold in the toy-retail industry. It now has five locations: three in New York City, one in Connecticut and one in Texas.
Its new feature presents another chance to draw shoppers’ attention, but online shopping experiences aimed at kids pose additional risks and privacy questions, children’s advocates say. Attorneys general from 44 states and territories on May 10 sent a letter to
asking the tech giant to scrap its plan to build a version of Instagram for children, citing behavioral and privacy concerns.
Camp’s Present Shop “goes to a place that is increasingly happening in this world, which is trying to get access to kids younger and younger, develop habits, patterns, disconnect them from parental or adult oversight,” said Nathan Dungan, vice chairman of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, an advocacy group.
Camp executives said the new feature complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law that requires websites to get parental consent before collecting data on children under 13, among other things. Once Camp has that consent, it collects anonymized data, the company said.
U.S. retail toy sales totaled $25.1 billion in 2020, up 16% from the previous year, as parents sought to entertain children at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to NPD Group Inc., a research firm. Toy makers including
also had sales increases over the past year.
The toy business remains highly competitive, said
managing director at GlobalData PLC, a research firm.
“It is also a very price-sensitive market, because retail is very conscious that families have budgets, and they want to provide very good value for money,” Mr. Saunders said.
The focus on low prices, combined with demand for big selections and fast deliveries, has favored generalists such as
and Amazon over specialist toy stores, Mr. Saunders said.
The toy industry has gone through upheaval, with fixtures including Toys ‘R’ Us and FAO Schwarz fading. Toy sales have also been influenced by YouTube stars such as Ryan Kaji, the 9-year-old toy reviewer who has signed deals to sell Ryan-branded toys with Walmart, Target and others.
An animated bear called Scout guides children through the Present Shop. The budgets that adults set for them are represented at the top of the page as “coins” that decrease as children choose gifts.
The Present Shop might help teach children the value of money by giving them more autonomy in the shopping process, said Priscilla Vega, founder of public-relations agency PR Vega and mother of a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old.
“I think the experience could be fun, with appropriate supervision,“ Ms. Vega said.
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