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May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5
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Retailing Tips: Plan Now for Christmas

Preparing for Fourth-Quarter Madness


“If we run short on something … then we have something else ready to direct the customers to.” Jane Beck, B.J. Beck’s Toys
Being ready for Christmas shoppers means planning months in advance and ordering when you’re still busy with beach-toy sales. TDmonthly Magazine spoke with 28 specialty toy-store owners about how to order well to reach fourth-quarter goals:

  1. Order Early. “I do some of my ordering now [March] for fourth quarter,” said Susan Castor, owner of Pentwater Toy Box in Pentwater, Mich. That puts her ahead of the game: six other retailers told TDmonthly they order from August to October.
  2. Stock Up on Sleepers. “Some items are a little flat throughout the year, but do well in the fourth quarter, like playsets. I keep them year-round, but I make sure I have them for the fourth quarter,” advised Harriet Story, owner of Leaping Lizards! in Mineral Point, Wis.
  3. Know Your Customers. “I talk to my customers about what they’re going to buy for their kids or grandkids, whoever, all summer long. I ask them what they like and study prices: what they’re spending, what’s a good price point,” shared Castor. “You just need to know your clientele.”
  4. Listen to Employees. “I have a great staff that is good at showing customers how things work,” said Carolyn Meyer, owner of Blue Turtle Toys of Dayton, Ohio. “They deal with the customers every day, so they know what they are asking for and what’s selling.“
  5. Have a Backup. “If we run short on something … then we have something else ready to direct the customers to,” Jane Beck, owner of B.J. Beck’s Toys in Cedarburg, Wis., told TDmonthly. “If they are coming here and asking for it and they can’t find it, then they won’t be able to find it anywhere, so we need to be ready with something that might be a comparable substitute.”
  6. Carry Unique Items. “Intentionally carry something different, creative and unique from other stores,” suggested Daniel Butler, vice president of merchandising for the National Retail Association. “Contact local artists to personalize items.” Beck said one of the new items she expects to do well with this year is UglyDolls. Although they’ve been out for a while, she said they’re just getting to her area and she’s the one carrying them.
  7. Withhold. Never put all of your holiday toys out at the beginning of the shopping season. “I like to bring new things out a little at a time; that way, there’s always something different and it gives people more ideas,” Castor noted.
  8. Be organized. Know what you’re going to order and have your information and questions organized before you contact a manufacturer or sales rep, recommended Stephen Medina, communications manager for Schylling. “Inquire when you call on specials; ask if the items are in stock and when delivery will be,” he said.

Study what’s being purchased through the year and what has been good for you in past years, summed up Butler. When looking at the current trends, knowing what your customer will buy is the answer.

For help deciding which toys to order and to see some of the newest items of the year, be sure to check out TDmonthly's Holiday Preview Issues in June, July and August.



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Terri Hughes-LazzellWriter's Bio: Terri Hughes-Lazzell is a freelance journalist based in Ossian, Ind. After spending nearly a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she has worked as a freelance journalist for more than ten years, writing about a variety of topics. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide. Read more articles by this author

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