Rental Startup Not Playing Around, Baby

Discussion
Feb 12, 2008

By George Anderson

Lori Pope shared an experience with millions of other American parents. She made sure she did her research and got her twin infant boys the best toys possible. Imagine her delight as she watched her kids take to those toys and the utter disappointment when they were quickly discarded for something else.

That experience gave Ms. Pope the idea for founding her company, Baby Plays, an online retailer that rents toys in much the same way services such as Netflix distribute films.

Consumers can subscribe to Baby Plays and choose from nearly 200 toys for kids from newborns to preschoolers. Subscribers create a wish list of toys and have them shipped when they come up on the queue.

Heidi Borden is a financial analyst from the Houston area who subscribes to the Baby Plays service for her 11-month-old daughter and two-year-old son. Baby Plays, she told The Associated Press, is great because it gets her out of going toy shopping with her kids.

“She (Ms. Borden’s daughter) wants to get on the floor and he’s running down the aisle and I’m just stressed to pick out something really good really quick, get in and out,” she said. “It’s just a lot nicer to be able to do this online and not worry about if it’s something that they don’t like.”

Baby Plays started out with 10 customers and has since grown to 200 subscribers, including 40 grandparents. Customers pay from $28.99 a month for three months to rent four toys to $35.99 to get six toys a month for three months. Subscribers making a year commitment can receive six toys a month for $31.99.

Members typically hold onto a toy for a month and then return it although there is no penalty if a family wants to hang on to a particular toy for a longer period of time.

Toys are always inspected to make sure they are up to Baby Plays quality and safety standards. Each toy stocked by Baby Plays is inspected for lead and the company doesn’t rent items with small parts that could represent a choking hazard.

Ms. Pope said the company looks at each toy when it is returned and before it goes out to make sure they meet Baby Plays’ quality standards.

“If it has a little scratch on it, we’re not going to take it out of the program,” she told The Associated Press. “We’re not going to ever send anybody anything that they’re going to feel like is junk.”

Discussion Question: Will Baby Plays do for toys what Netflix has done for movies?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Rental Startup Not Playing Around, Baby"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 3 months ago

This is a great idea, especially for parents concerned about the amount of waste that’s caused by the plethora of “stuff” we buy for babies that’s either rarely used or discarded quickly. I shudder to think about the environmental implications. There’s also peace of mind if the firm is ensuring that all toys are safe and managing any and all recalls. It’s likely not for everyone, but as a soon-to-be new mom, I’ll be jumping right on this!

George Anderson
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Evidently Baby Plays was not ready for the traffic driven to the site by the publicity the company is getting. An earlier visit to http://www.babyplays.com found this message: “Due to overwhelming traffic, the Baby Plays site is experiencing some problems loading. We are geared up to serve your toy rental needs and look forward to having you as a member. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope that you will visit us again soon. Maintenance on our site will be complete by Wednesday, February 13, 2008.”

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Maybe the answer is to just jump off the treadmill of promiscuous consumption and stay off. Why rent toys kids will reject? Sure, it’s better than buying them but who says they need all that “stuff” in the first place?

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
14 years 3 months ago

This is a cute idea and an attention getter, but will be a flash in the pan. I will say they’ve done a stellar job of getting the press releases and videos out to TV stations where I first saw this on last night’s news. But, as others have said, the expense of execution, (appropriate inventory, storage, order processing, shipping, packing, cataloging, re-inspecting,) and assuring safety in our litigious society, (monitoring for recalls, disinfecting, customer service, etc.) makes the business impractical longer term.

Seems to me that three or four moms in an area could easily get together, each agree to purchase several different toys and then rotate them amongst each other’s families every few months for the same effect at less cost. Oh, that’s right, they already do, and have for years! As we like to teach our children–it’s nice to share.

Rodger Visitacion
Guest
Rodger Visitacion
14 years 3 months ago

iLetYou launched in 2007 as the first online rental community of DVD and Games stores.

In the coming weeks, we are launching a search and store platform for all rental products and businesses.

We are only on the cusp of interesting rental concepts such as Baby Plays. Rental has always been a large and established market, and really just another way of looking at the resale/used market as people’s possessions and consumption approaches a saturation point. Having a central company dedicated to things like sanitation, quality control, merchandising, discovery and such can actually be a selling point.

Conceptually, I think toys is a great idea. Each and every market is subject to analysis as to how large the market can grow, whether the business is local or national, etc. Certain markets are local by nature, and others will have the real possibility of growing on a national scale. In Baby Plays’ case just as with BagBorrowOrSteal (handbag rental), there are hurdles but hurdles that can be overcome.

Sue Nicholls
Guest
Sue Nicholls
14 years 3 months ago

Conceptually, it sounds like a great idea. And think of the positive impact on the environment–significantly less plastic toys in the landfill is a good thing.

But I think of germs–other babies sucking on my baby’s rented toys, spitting up on them, etc. Next I envision the toys in a house from “Too Posh to Wash” (the British reality show of people living in complete filth), where the bacteria and bugs are taking over peoples’ homes.

As a loving & caring mother, do I want to bring toys into my home when I don’t know where they have been?

North America is paranoid about germs–Baby Plays will have to do a good job convincing consumers that the toys are “germ free,” and that they don’t send out toys that look second-hand. As someone dedicated to helping the environment, I hope that this program is a success.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
14 years 3 months ago

In theory, the concept is great. Renting toys for short term use on a subscription basis is a clever idea. The question is whether or not the business is scalable. As the business grows, the inventory costs will start to be overwhelmingly huge. The company will not be able to wait to see whether or not a particular toy will be popular, and they risk having a huge inventory of toys that no parent wants to rent.

There are other problems with the business. Shipping costs will be high. Each toy that comes back will have to be disinfected. And as toys become tired, there will need to be a program in place that allows the toy to be retired. Finally, are there enough new toys that come out on the market that allow for a monthly subscription to be worthwhile?

An interesting concept, but I’m not sure it will be a large national company.

Tom GOTUZZO
Guest
Tom GOTUZZO
14 years 3 months ago
For commodity type items which we all know and have maybe grown up with before, I believe it would work. However I believe there is still a sense of adventure and discovery when you take your child to the toy shop, walk the isles, and find something together. Some toys have a personal element to them and you would want to see the size, material, fit and finish of the product. Nothing takes the place of seeing your child’s eyes light up as they discover ‘that’ item which get them excited–and you. As much as this experience can be replicated online would benefit the parent and child–and Baby Plays. The time savings of getting toys delivered is a major benefit. As well, the child opening the box can also add the thrill of getting a new toy to play with. A consideration for repeat customers would be how easy it is to send the toy back. Easy to store repackaging materials for easy shipment back to Baby Plays. Building a brand can help build value… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

Baby Plays’ only obstacle to success is the marketing cost. It doesn’t matter if the majority of parents don’t want it. Baby Plays only needs a profitable minority. With great publicity, Baby Plays’ marketing costs are minimized, until they get 12 imitators.

Linda Bustos
Guest
Linda Bustos
14 years 3 months ago

Despite the promise to disinfect the toys before sending them on to the next family, I’m not sold on the idea of temporary toys (just as a matter of preference–I still think this is a great business model).

Is there an insurance policy for if the toy is ripped to shreds by a child, dog or other “incident”? If the toy is not new, it would not be fair to pay full price for a replacement.

The old fashioned way was swaps between parents, hand-me-downs and giving unneeded toys to charity. So passing along toys is not new. The thing that I’m reserved about is when you have to send back a toy it will always be in the back of your mind when you see your child playing with it. It would make me nervous to keep the toy in mint condition, and to hope the child doesn’t fall in love with it only to have it taken away.

Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
14 years 3 months ago

This is a great idea given the volume of age-specific items that parents can go through, particularly with multiple kids with different interests. It’s a “green” approach to helping your kids grow and develop and have toys that keep them entertained.

Also, it’s a bit like renting a car you’re considering purchasing before you make the commitment–if your child seems to have a particular interest in a toy, you can “try before you buy.” A concern might be the level of sanitary cleanliness, but from the description of how the toys are cleaned, it seems that they are as clean, if not cleaner, than toys in any typical home or childcare environment. Sounds like a win/win for busy parents and growing kids.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 3 months ago
My kids are 27 and 25. They continually surf through the storage containers in my garage for their childhood memorabilia. Don’t even begin to try to convince me that renting memories is a good thing. It’s in the same category as “quality time,” the idea that you can manage your children’s memories. There’s simply no cure for stupid. Why not just turn it all around and rent a baby to fit the toys you purchased? Absolutely true story, seriously: I entered a Safeway store recently beside a mom with a toddler. We selected shopping carts at the same time and cruised past the handi-wipe station providing free sanitary wipes. (As we all know, the purpose of the wipes is to protect children riding in the carts’ safety seats from germs when they chew on the carts’ handles during their teething phases.) I pointed out the wipes and their purpose, and this was her reply–I kid you not: “I believe that the more antibodies my child picks up, the more his immune system gains strength. Since… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 3 months ago

This is a great idea that won’t gain the traction it deserves, IMHO. Kids want toys longer than just a few days, and the pleasure of the toy also comes from the giving of the gift (especially from friends and grandparents). This disrupts this. There is also an issue with kids who like to play with toys over and over and over. Finally, part of the fun of a toy is the gift wrapping, opening, and breaking of the toy (eventually). Unlike Netflix, we are dealing with kids handling toys, not adults….

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Are American parents and grandparents ready, in big numbers, to rent rather than buy toys for their kids and grandkids?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...