DOES THE IDEA OF TAKING youngsters shopping at Toys `R' Us send shivers up and down your spine? If so, eToys Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., has a new service for you. On Oct. 1, the company is scheduled to launch an online toy store that allows you to purchase everything from Barbie to the software program Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? in the comfort of your own living room.
With more than 1,000 toys from 65 manufacturers, eToys wants to be the dominant retailer of toys on the Web. "Nobody has targeted this as a category killer for the Web," says CEO Toby Lenk. He does have competition, however. F.A.O. Schwarz offers some toys on its Web site. Toys `R' Us, which Lenk views as his prime competitor in the broad toy market, doesn't have a Web site yet, but plans to test one later this year.
eToys is financed by idea lab! of Pasadena, Calif., a company that is backed by Steven Spielberg and that invests in Web startups such as CitySearch Inc., the online city-entertainment guide. Like CitySearch, eToys plans to foster the idea of community to keep people coming back to its site. It will include discussion groups, and toy recommendations from the Parents' Choice Foundation, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, and other organizations.