December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Play time

By Rick Markley

Editor in Chief

There’s a reason some toys end up at the bottom of the toy box while others never get put away-some are just more fun. Likewise there is a reason one online toy seller stands on top of the heap-it works.

With more than 100,000 SKUs, eToys has just about everything a kid could want, and more importantly, a lot of what an adult wants. The site breaks down product searches by category and by age. The site’s home page features big items that carry price tags from $75 to $600 (definitely not for that snot-nosed nephew who terrorizes your dog on holidays). Products are listed with price and availability. Clicking on a product brings detailed information and larger photos.

For those not sure what makes a cool gift, the site’s gift center offers suggestions for age groups and for the relationship to the recipient (child, grandchild, niece or nephew, or classmate). The gift center also lets shoppers pick from five wrapping papers and make a personal card for $5 per item. Visitors can make a wish list, and when that list becomes a registry, those buying items from the list save 10%. eToys also guarantees its prices are the lowest. The company will refund up to 30 days after a purchase the difference between its price and a competitor’s advertised price. Some restrictions apply, but overall it’s a pretty straightforward policy.

Tracey Berglund, director of customer experience with Cambridge, Mass.-based Mainspring, says she likes eToys’ one-step checkout, but that the payment options should be more prominent.

eToys’ is the recognized leader in online toy sales. Gomez Advisors Inc. has ranked the site No. 1 overall for the past five consecutive scorecards. In category rankings, eToys did not rank lower than No. 2 on the Fall 2000 scorecard.

Etoys.com

Santa Monica, Calif.

Monthly visitors: N/A

Sales: $151 million 1999

Went live: October 1997

Design by: In-house

OS: Linex & In-house

E-C Software: In-house

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