December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Not for parents only

Don’t know a Furby from a Pokemon? Not to worry, eToys endears itself to childless consumers as well as parents by providing numerous search tools so that clueless shoppers can sift through toys by age, price, brand, and category. In fact, IXL’s Duif Calvin credits eToys with having “the world’s greatest search engine.”

The online toy retailer also scores points for breadth and depth of merchandise, which causes the colorful home page to be a bit cluttered. Not only are national brands carried at eToys, but specialty items such as Steiff stuffed animals that might not be stocked on local toy store shelves.

But even eToys had better watch over its shoulder. Formidable competition is nipping at its heels-including Amazon, KB Kids and Toysmart, the latter being flush with capital from Walt Disney (former employer of eToys founder Toby Lenk).

Even as observers praise eToys for leading the online toy charge, they deliver some criticism. Other sites are doing a better job of educating their customers, say observers. Working moms especially want to find out all they can about a toy before hitting the buy button.

What’s more, “it’s not clear from the item description page when a product will ship,” points out Liz Leonard, senior analyst at Gomez Advisors. Last-minute shoppers won’t risk late delivery-a tardy birthday gift could touch off a domestic crisis.

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