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November 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 11
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Retailer Spotlight: Juggles

Store Overcomes Struggles to Shine With Great Toys


“A small business should be run like a large business, with time carefully spent on all aspects.” Idanna Smith, Juggles
It was during her early '80s quest to begin a children’s bookstore that mother and teacher Idanna Smith, along with a friend, discovered a toy store for sale and took the plunge into ownership.

“[We] decided to jump in as it seemed to mirror the kind of toys we liked and wanted to own,” Idanna explained to TDmonthly Magazine.

PROFIT TAKES TIME

Her first store, The Toy Cellar, in Wickford, R.I., opened its doors in 1983 with an initial investment of $8,000 from each partner. Idanna and her friend added capital from store earnings as needed, but earning a profit didn’t happen quickly.

“It took three to four years, and the partnership only lasted one year,” Idanna said. “I bought out my partner, so it took awhile to pay that off.”

In the beginning, lack of funding was an obstacle; Idanna opened the East Greenwich, R.I., Juggles in 1986 and then a third Juggles in 1995 — all with profit from the first store. She noted that opening other stores in the belief that the community needed her was one of her mistakes, as the cash drain to open more stores meant years of low profits.

WORKING WITH THE CLOCK

Another obstacle was time, since she was a mother of two teenagers, who were her first priority.

“Having store coverage, giving up that control over selling the way I thought it should be done, and paying for the time that I needed for my family were the main problems,” she told TDmonthly.

Lack of time also resulted in other problems. Since Idanna didn’t have time to do everything she should have, a business plan was the first of many things that got put aside.

“Until I became more disciplined, I made mistakes that affected the bottom line,” she said. “A small business should be run like a large business, with time carefully spent on all aspects.”

HAVING THE RIGHT IMAGE

One marketing lesson Idanna has learned is that it is imperative to present a store to the customer base in a manner that reflects exactly what the store is.

“Images, words and actions all make a difference,” she said.

As she attended shows and seminars and read more widely, Idanna refined what she thought reflected the things she believed in for kids which helped to shape her store.

ALIGNING FOR GOOD BUSINESS

She was also one of the original members of The Good Toy Group, an organization of specialty retail stores, and was asked to serve on the board. When no one would take the lead position, she volunteered, and now works full time as the company’s managing director.

“It has benefited my company because the catalog is a superb vision of what you will find in our store,” she said. “The copy is informative and accurate, the toys are carefully chosen and the art work portrays kids having good, healthy play. It gives my customers an accurate taste of what they will find in our stores. It makes me look very professional and puts my message easily in competition with the other toy catalogs customers get in the mail.”

PROMOTING QUALITY PLAY

Idanna takes delight in “each child who comes in and loves the toy he or she has purchased, and each parent who reports great play with the toys.”

She is also thankful for “each day that I am a source of good, quality toys that promote healthy play, and each thoughtful interaction with our customers who come to us for trusted advice.”

To see some of the quality toys her customers love to buy, see My Best Sellers: Juggles.

You can also hear what Idanna has to say about toys and toy stores by watching the TDmonthly videos in this article.



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Brenda RuggieroWriter's Bio: Brenda Ruggiero is a freelance writer from western Maryland. Read more articles by this author

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