October 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 10
TDmonthly Goes Inside ... Kazoodles, Vancouver, WA
How a Lack of Toys Became a Profitable Business
Bob and Mary Sisson had to drive all the way from Vancouver, Wash., to Portland, Ore., to buy toys for their grandchildren because there were no quality toy stores in their hometown. That's when they had an epiphany: They should open one! First, they took a community college course on running a business. Then they joined ASTRA to get the low-down on top sellers. They also consulted with a SCORE counselor for practical business advice.
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Their first store opened in March 2006, in downtown Vancouver. Four years later, they opened a second store on the East Side. They find great toys for their stores at various trade shows and also by researching online with TDmonthly Magazine and ToyDirectory.com. Over the years, they've learned that the most fabulous toys don't always sell; price counts, too. Despite the challenges of running their business, Bob and Mary (and their customers) still love to play with toys. Hear the rest of their story in the video below. Then scroll down to read about and watch videos of their best-selling products:
Calico Critters Pickleweeds Hedgehog Twins by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Other products from INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Hazel likes to make a lot of noise. She loves banging on the cymbals of her father's drum set. Honey really likes playing in his father's mail bags and throwing envelopes in the air. He tends to make a big mess. This pair is part of the Calico Critters of Cloverleaf Corners collection.
— Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., named the Pickleweeds family among her top-30 best sellers in early June 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28766 (added 6/7/2010)
Mighty World's Complete Base Camp by INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
Other products from INTERNATIONAL PLAYTHINGS LLC
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This play set includes three explorer figures, an ATV, an adventure truck, a horse, a horse trailer and hitch, a kayak and paddles, a tent, sleeping bags, a campfire and more. The vehicles can even be adjusted and taken apart. “Mighty World is a comprehensive, exciting line of play figures, accessories, and play sets designed to foster children’s imagination and creativity by encouraging them to create, experience and explore their own world of pretend play,” Andrea Harvey, public relations representative for International Playthings, told TDmonthly. This product is a Spring 2007 Dr. Toy Best Product Award winner. Launch date: September 2007.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14179 (added 7/19/2007)
The first member of the Perplexus family, this see-through sphere houses a 3-D labyrinth game with 100 barriers, turns, twists and cliffhangers that serve as obstacles to getting a small steel ball to the end. Invented in 1970 by Michael McGinnis, a design teacher, Perplexus helps develop motor and dexterity skills, along with hand-eye coordination.
― As of 12/17/2012 this product had 4.4 out of 5 stars from 393 reviews on Amazon.com and was No. 12 on the top 100 bestselling toys and games.
— At Izilla Toys in Seattle, "Perplexus is selling really, really well for us," Co-owner Jude Larene told TDmonthly in late fall 2009.
— In summer 2010 this game was a top-10 best seller at Dancing Bear Toys in Asheville and Hendersonville, N.C..
Awards: 2012 Parents’ Choice Awards - Silver, 2011 Time Magazine – 15 Smartest Toys for Young Geniuses, 2011 Parent Tested Parent Approved – Seal of Approval, 2011 Grand Prix Kidexpo – Elu par les Parents (Parents’Choice), 2011 Children of Museum of Indianapolis – Top 10 Toys of 2011, 2011 Canadian Toy Testing Council – Children’s Choice, 2011 Babble List – Best Kids Toys, 2010 Toy Insider – Hot 20, 2010 The National Parenting Center – Seal of Approval, 2010 Prémio Brazil – Award of Excellence, 2010 Parents’ Magazine – Top Toys, 2010 NAPPA – Gold, 2010 ASTRA – Best Toy for Kids
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 26245 (added 12/2/2009)
Now more than 10 years old, PlasmaCar continues to intrigue and fascinate with millions of units sole and multiple awards in over sixty countries worldwide. Just sit, put your feet up, and turn the steering wheel to propel yourself forward up to 6 mph on any smooth, flat surface. With a maximum weight capacity of 220 lbs., even parents and grandparents have experienced a giggle by taking it for a spin. Made from state-of-the-art, high-quality ABS plastics, this kid-powered, durable, ride-on vehicle comes in a variety of colors.
— “I can't believe how many of these I sell,” remarked Jacque Flagg, owner of Jacque’s Inc. in Bryan, Texas. In a March 2009 survey, Flagg reported sales of around 20 per month.
— In spring 2009, 41 percent of 60 retailers listed PlasmaCar as a best-selling ride-on in their stores, reporting sales of a dozen per month on average.
Awards: 2012 Parents Choice Awards Recommended, 2009 Green Parents List Check Mark, 2009 DisneyFamily.com Top Action Figures and Toys for Toddlers, 2009+2008+2005 The National Parenting Centre Seal of Approval, 2008 iParenting Media Toy Award, 2008 Fat Brain Toy Award Active Play, 2006 TIA Outdoor Toy of the Year - Specialty Toy of the Year, 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, 2005 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award, 2005 Dr. Toy Best Vacation Products, 2005 Creative Child Seal of Excellence, 2001 International Patent Fair, Hong Kong Gold Medal
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 22968 (added 3/24/2009)
The multi-button, electronic cash register features a functional coin reader that correctly identifies real and included plastic play coins and a checkout scanner equipped with sound. The game will teach kids coin identification, addition, subtraction and place-value.
— Peg Scholtes, owner of Capitol Kids in Madison, Wis., said this product sells consistently well in her store.
— “I would have sold more of [them] had I not run out, but I thought I had ordered [more] and forgot,” Co-owner Mary Sisson of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., told TDmonthly in early 2008.
— This is a best-seller on imaginetoys.com.
— Two of 43 retailers named a product by Learning Resources, including this cash register, when discussing best-selling playsets in April 2010.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 4384 (added 8/31/2005)
Children can easily make music on this solid wood instrument by sliding a song sheet under the strings and plucking the string above each note. It comes with tuner pick, a spare wire and 12 songs, including “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Rock-a-Bye Baby.”
— “The Music Maker is really popular,” said Steve Ellerhoff, manager at Finnegan's Toys and Gifts in Portland, Ore. Ellerhoff was part of a January 2010 survey of 48 retailers concerning their best-selling musical items.
— “The Music Maker, made by European Expressions, is popular because it's a no-brainer musical instrument,” Steve Shelton, owner of Magical Moon Toys in Logan, Utah, told TDmonthly in early 2010. “[Kids] can follow along right out of the box.”
― “One day we got in six, and sold three the first hour they were in the store,” said Mary Sisson, co-owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. (see her talk about the Music Maker in the attached video).
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 14531 (added 8/8/2007)
This 150-piece game set allows kids to construct their own racing system. It includes instructions for 30 raceways as well as track, connectors, loops and two cars in a reusable storage bin with handles and a top that locks.
— Products by DARDA, including this set, are best sellers at Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash., Co-owner Mary Sisson told TDmonthly in early 2008.
— Racing sets were best sellers at Twirl Toystore & Playspace in Taos, N.M., in early 2009, according to Owner Molly McMullin. “They are a great example of how having a demo out to be played with makes all the difference in selling,” she told TDmonthly. “Our salespeople all love showing people how to get the most effective run out of the pull-back cars.”
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 17226 (added 1/28/2008)
This small aquarium comes with "live" gravel filled with beneficial bacteria, which means that no external filter is required. Snails and African Dwarf Frogs are included, and a one-year food supply is available.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 30402 (added 9/2/2010)
Hexbug Nano Newton Gravity Series 5 Pack by INNOVATION FIRST LABS, INC.
Other products from INNOVATION FIRST LABS, INC.
These robotic creatures behave like real bugs. Kids can go online to register and track their Nano collections. Additional bugs, track, habitats, carrying cases and more are available separately.
— Five of 40 retailers told TDmonthly in June 2010 that the Hexbug is a top-selling product. In July 2010, 11 percent of 38 retailers named Hexbugs an overall top seller.
— In a June 2010 survey, two of 40 retailers told TDmonthly Hexbugs are a top-selling gift for boys ages 4 to 12.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28518 (added 5/14/2010)
As a creative, educational action toy, it’s loads of fun — kids jump on the air bladder to launch a 9" all-foam rocket into the air. The Junior Stomp Rocket is used by science teachers to help children learn about trajectory, force and motion. It is also valued by psychologists, physical therapists, special-ed teachers and parents of children with special needs. “Stomp Rockets are recognized for their positive contribution to the lives of millions of children and adults around the world,” Frank Reed, of D & L Company, told TDmonthly. Awards: Top Toy of the Year 2005, Creative Child Magazine; Excellent Product 2005, iParenting Media.
— “Our top selling flying toy is The Stomp Rocket Jr.,” confirmed Sallie Kashiwa, manager of Timbuk Toys in Denver, in October 2008. “We go through about four cases (40) a month.”
— Six of 68 retailers said in fall 2008 that the Stomp Rocket is their best-selling flying toy. Holly Anvers, manager of Ages & Stages Toy Box in Golden, Colo., cited sales of about 40 units per month in late fall 2009.
— Eighteen percent of 38 specialty retailers named Stomp Rockets an overall best-selling toy in July 2010. Scott Loveless, owner of Toys That Teach in Bothell, Wash., told TDmonthly in summer 2010 that his store sells “somewhere along the lines of 40 to 60” Stomp Rockets each month. “Stomp Rockets … are always a summer favorite.”
— In autumn 2010, Marc Holcomb, owner of Toys & Co. In Greensboro, S.C., said he sold approximately 50 per month per store. “It's our #1 gift item,'' he told TDmonthly.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 1089
These 3-D watches come in assorted 12-sets of themed styles.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 28765 (added 6/7/2010)
Flying Monkey by WESTMINSTER INTERNATIONAL CO.
Other products from WESTMINSTER INTERNATIONAL CO.
This monkey slingshot's strong elastic arms can propel him far distances. Users simply put two fingers in the hand pockets, pull back and let go. He comes complete with a cape and mask, and lets out a loud monkey call when released.
— In autumn 2010, Christine Osborne, co-owner of Wonder Works in Charleston, S.C., said she was still selling about 30 soaring simians per month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 30677 (added 9/27/2010)
This multicolored magnetic building toy is a 30-piece set that includes 18 squares and 12 triangles with 108 magnets. Kids can create 2-D or 3-D objects for open-ended building possibilities.
— Lynda Blankenship, owner of Smart Toys & Books in Knoxville, Tenn. told TDmonthly in late Spring 2011 that Magformers were a best-selling construction toy.
— Want this? As of 05/10/2011, this product was available for purchase at Smart Toys & Books
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 30679 (added 9/27/2010)
Wheely Bugs are hand-crafted ride-on toys that go backwards, forwards, sideways and in circles. They provide free movement so children can be entertained while developing gross motor skills.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 30680 (added 9/27/2010)
This dramatic play wooden workbench is designed to be the right size for young children, right down to the nuts and bolts. The set includes a functioning vise, a tool rack, wooden tools, hardware and a storage shelf. A booklet with creative play ideas is included.
— In a February 2012 survey about wooden toys, Mike DiAndrea, manager of Hardware Toys in Paoli, Pa., told TDmonthly that they sell six of this item each month.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 30681 (added 9/27/2010)
These animal erasers have removable puzzle parts so they can be taken off and reassembled. The animal collection includes elephants, panda bears, a giraffe, a cow and a pig.
— "Over the course of the last year, it was 500 to 1,000 units per week," Gage Brownell of Belmont Toys in Belmont, Mass., told TDmonthly in March 2010 about his store's sales of Iwako erasers.
— BC USA Erasers were on the top-10 best-seller list at Jillie Beans Toys & More in Westminster, Colo., in April 2010, reported Owner Valerie Elsea. “Tweeny girls and boys love them and they are easy to collect,” she told TDmonthly. “They’ve been selling well since the fall of .”
— Gwen Bowden, manager of Doodlehopper 4 Kids in Springfield, Va., told TDmonthly in a Summer 2011 survey that her best-selling collectibles are "Japanese erasers. We sell some every day - about 100 per month."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 27581 (added 3/15/2010)
These sporty wooden toy cars feature streamlined shapes and realistic brightly colored "windows" and "tires."
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 29706 (added 7/23/2010)
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Writer's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on www.alisonmarek.com. Watch her nefarious villains in the web series www.MuggsMovers.com. Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at www.ARFFirmations.com. Phew! And then ... Read more articles by this author
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