It is becoming a little clearer to me that the toy shoppers of today are splitting into two camps. The price/convenient/mundane shopper that just wants to get the birthday party gift(or holiday) quickly and be done or they simply want to satisfy their child by what they see on YouTube and not hear about the whining. Versus, parents and toy shoppers that look at a birthday party (or holiday) and say, “what can I do to make the child feel special, maybe learn a few new skills, and/or personalize this gift to the child.” The latter obviously takes more time, effort and perhaps dollars. This doesn’t mean they won’t let their child have the HOT TOY FAD but that is usually secondary to the purpose of purchasing a special gift with forethought and research so they can give that perfect gift. After all, there is a set amount of birthdays a child has– you can’t increase or go back in time.
Now if my assumption is correct on the divergent toy shopper profiles, what does that have to do with toy retailers? Well, I believe two distinct segments can survive and grow over time– the convenient/low price model and the curated product/service model. We obviously fall into the latter and find it is working, and working well. Yes, you must have what kids want, but just as importantly, you need knowledgeable team members to help the toy shopper find that special gift or assist in making it special. If you examine the toy industry, Amazon is clearly in camp one and seems to be leading the pack with Wal-Mart. Those retailers stuck in the middle– try to deliver convenience, low prices, stock mostly what’s hot, but usually have way too many toys, are losing. My experience at Learning Express Toys (the national Franchise toy leader) and my interactions with ASTRA (American Specialty Toy Retailer Association) clearly show that both ends of this customer split can and do co-exist together. In fact, we need both. My job as a retailer is to then execute better than any other retailer through our strategy of Best Team, Best Products, in a WOW environment. Since we embarked on this strategy 5 years ago, it has truly paid dividends to the surprise of many. I hope that if you read this, regardless of which toy shopper profile you fit, remember to make birthdays and holidays as special as you can for your own children, relatives, friends and even perhaps those less fortunate. May you have a safe, fun and rewarding 2017 holiday season.