Hands-On at the Play Table: Retailing Secrets
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June 2003 | Vol. II - No. 6

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Hands-On at the Play Table: Retailing Secrets

What makes a toy a hot seller? Is it due to a catchy name or a colorful package? Or maybe even an aggressive advertising campaign? In the Nature and Discovery Store, a toy’s popularity is often determined on their Play Table.

What is a Play Table?

At each of his three Nature and Discovery Stores, owner Joseph Mistishen has a large table filled with toys for customers to sample and try out. Manipulative puzzles and games are ideal candidates for the Play Table. Instructions for these types of toys often fall into two categories: either directions are over-simplified, failing to highlight the challenges the game offers, or they are so detailed and confusing that customers abandon the toy for one easier to understand.

“Some things need to be put out,” says Mistishen. “Customers need instruction in them. In the packages they are not understood.” Customers also have the opportunity to experience exactly what they’ll be buying: size and number of game pieces, quality of construction, etc.

How Do You Use the Play Table?

It isn’t enough to take games out of their boxes and place them on the Play Table; they need to be explained. When asked if it’s easier to sell the games featured on his tables, Mistishen answers enthusiastically, “Without a doubt.” But he also points out that employees have to know how to play the games for the Play Table to work. When training new employees, Mistishen shows them a few new games and toys each day and encourages them to practice whenever they have downtime during their shift.

What Are the Problems with the Play Table?

The Mega Magz Construction Set

Mistishen admits he has to keep after his employees, reminding them “the important part is doing and showing.” With the table directly in front of the checkout counter, Mistishen says shoplifting and breakage aren’t a significant problem. But inevitably, some things do seem to be irresistible to shoppers, such as tiny magnetic silver balls from the building set Magz. Although the balls are being taken, their location on the table has made these sets a fast seller. The company compensates Mistishen for the losses by sending him free sample balls every time he places an order, ensuring Magz’s place on his Play Table.

Blue Orange's Newest Gobblet

What are the Advantages of the Play Table?

“Sometimes you need to experience [samples] to realize they are really fun,” Mistishen says. When I visited, he pointed to a new addition to his inventory, the board game Gobblet. If the game were still in the box, Mistishen might tell customers that the object is to get four game pieces in the row and prevent your opponent from doing the same. Sounds, unfortunately, like a redux of Tic-Tac-Toe. But, with the help of the game board and pieces, Mistishen soon had me laughing as he showed me how pieces can “gobble” each other up, and how gobbled pieces can come back into play. The game is actually a lot more fun than Tic-Tac-Toe--so much more fun that I decided to buy Gobblet. Score one more for the Play Table.

To view recent industry sales figures for Games and Puzzles, Click Here




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