THREE UNITS OF GOODING'S FEATURE SOFT PLAYGROUNDS

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNS) -- New play areas for kids inside three Gooding's stores here are the latest wrinkle in the upscale chain's strategy for marketing to children.Smaller versions of Playland in larger McDonald's stores, the soft playgrounds represent a major emphasis on attracting kids and assisting busy parents as they shop. The areas are located at the front of the stores -- usually in or near

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNS) -- New play areas for kids inside three Gooding's stores here are the latest wrinkle in the upscale chain's strategy for marketing to children.

Smaller versions of Playland in larger McDonald's stores, the soft playgrounds represent a major emphasis on attracting kids and assisting busy parents as they shop. The areas are located at the front of the stores -- usually in or near Gooding's video departments -- so parents can drop off kids to play, watch videos or read books. The areas are unsupervised.

Large, white "Gooding's Kids Club Play Area" banners hang over each of the sections, which are separated from the rest of the store by small wooden fences.

At the store near Orlando International Airport, kids can shoot balls at a mini plastic basketball hoop, play or read at a plastic Lego table, and watch videos. Picnic benches are set up outside the Kids Club for parents. Barnie's Coffee, a locally based gourmet-coffee cafe, is also conveniently situated only a few feet away, so parents can sip coffee while watching their kids.

At the University Boulevard store, near the University of Central Florida, names of children are painted on the wall.

The section has a small plastic playhouse and small table and chairs, a TV, books and a small, old-fashioned scale for kids to weigh themselves.

The most recently added play area at the Red Bug Lake Road store in the suburb of Casselberry is similar to the others, except that a large wooden bird holds the "Gooding's Kids Club" sign at the entrance to the play area. The sign also lists monthly sponsors -- the manufacturers that provide product giveaways for Gooding's Kids Club cardholders. In February, sponsors were Kellogg's, Swiss Miss Cocoa, Farley's Rugrats Fruit Snacks, Jeff Puff Marshmallow and Sharon's Sorbet.

The play centers are also used as an opportunity to sell children's merchandise. At Gooding's store near Orlando International Airport, a 6-foot display features children's books and cassettes, next to a Kodak sticker print machine advertising a set of 16 prints for $4. A huge yellow sign in front of the Kodak station reads: "Put Your Face on a Sticker." Next to the Kodak station, a large plastic M&M figure holds rolls of M&M's, retailing at two for $1. In addition, "A Bug's Life" display features plastic dishware, books, tote bags and toys from the movie, as well as playing cards for $2.99 a set.

The University store merchandises products for parents near its kids' section. A spin rack includes adult and children's books, thank-you cards and sunglasses.

Kids Playspaces USA, Longwood, Fla., the company that created the playgrounds for Gooding's, has also created cartoon murals in the children's and pet aisles in some stores (see related story).

"We began redoing the stores last summer," said Anita Dimmock, chief executive officer for Kids Playspaces. Some of the banners were handpainted, while others were done with the help of computer graphics. Dimmock has also done an outside cartoon wall for the Tesco chain, in England, and will continue working with Gooding's to install another playground. Her company may also do additional banners for the grocery aisles.