Impulse and Novelty Toys are Bigger than You Think
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July 2003 | Vol. II - No. 7

July 2003 | Vol. II - No. 7 TDmonthly SEARCH

Impulse and Novelty Toys are Bigger than You Think

When Mom stands in the checkout line scanning for last minute items, she is probably not thinking, “I haven’t spent enough…Let’s see what else I can buy!” Creative stocking of novelty and impulse toys is a proven method for retailers to make their shelves call out “Look over here! You have to have this!”

Toys R Us, the No. 2 U.S. toy seller, sees enough promise in the Impulse/Novelty toy market that it has recently announced an exclusive arrangement with Albertson’s to install its Toy Box (small stores-within-a-store) outlets in the grocery chain’s 2,300 food and drug stores. Toys R Us began test-marketing its Toy Box concept in 2001, with each “store” comprising 200 to 500 square feet and offering a selection of toys for under $25.

Smaller retailers, who must make do without the benefit of corporate partnerships, can help drive sales by placing novelty items strategically throughout the store, most noticeably in high-traffic aisles leading to frequently purchased items. Jim Gunderson, national sales manager for Little Kids Inc., says “variety” is his No. 1 tip for those wishing to break into the Impulse/Novelty market.

“People are always looking for what is new or innovative: the next color, material or technology,” said Gunderson. Little Kids has made famous the No-Spill Bubble Container, and this year saw the introduction of the Bubble Jelly Mask and continued increases in sales.

Gary Ahlert, president of Creative Group Marketing, agrees that the Novelty/Impulse category is lucrative, though short-lived. “Products have a certain amount of shelf life,” Ahlert said. “The public gets bored with them. Very few stay around for a long time. You have to keep the selection fresh.”

As toys increase their presence in new outlets such as grocery and drugstores, opportunities for Impulse purchases increase. According to Jerry Singh of Category Management Inc., research shows that almost 50 percent of shoppers at grocery stores make unplanned purchases.

It’s also a year-round breadwinner for businesses. At Toy Works Inc. in Philadelphia, store manager Pat Moran estimates that 25% of store sales are impulse purchases, with 10% of that being licensed products. “The only time we switch it out is at Christmas when we put more higher-priced items near the register,” Moran said.

In smaller stores, tourist areas or specialty stores, customers are not necessarily shopping with a list in mind. Bill Carr, owner of Village Toy Store in Mendocino, California, estimates 10% of his sales are what he would classify as Impulse or Novelty. “I stock quality items, [but] I never follow the trends.”

The low price points of impulse and novelty items make them ideally suited to satisfying a child’s whims. Little Kids’ Gunderson claims that, although the economy has been soft, his company’s particular price points have given them shelter from the storm.

Could that mean that pleading children do have an effect on their parents’ purchases? The answer is yes, more than parents might want to admit. In the 1960s, children influenced about $5 billion of their parents’ purchases. Today, kids marketing expert James McNeal, author of The Kids’ Market: Myths and Realities, estimates that children 12 and under influence family purchases to the amount of $500 billion, with kids’ direct buying power exceeding $40 billion.

Writer's Bio: Pennie, a graduate of Indiana University School of Journalism, is a freelance writer and lives with her husband and three children in Visalia, CA.



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