Holiday Buying Strategies and Keeping Track During the Holiday Rush
TDmonthly Magazine!
September 2003 | Vol. II - No. 9

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Holiday Buying Strategies

Store Interior
It may be hard for people outside the toy industry to understand, but while most of us are still busy taking down the tree and lights, many toy retailers are already doing their shopping for next December.

Ordering en masse begins in February, when many retail buyers make the annual trek to ToyFair in New York City. The convenience of meeting with large companies who are willing and able to fill orders for the rest of the year on the spot makes the trip worthwhile for serious plan-ahead types.

Sharon Busch's Toys & Treasures International Store Interior

For Sharon Busch, owner of Toys & Treasures International (ToyShow) in Sioux Falls, S.D., about 50 percent of her yearly sales come between September and December, whereas holiday shopping used to affect only the last two months of the year. She attributes this trend to a growing base of return shoppers. “Our regular customers like to buy earlier," Busch says.

Flights of Fantasy

She’s been in the business long enough to learn a few tricks to maintain her store’s income throughout the year. She advertises regularly and utilizes direct mail to promote events at the store, stepping up the pace as the holidays approach. She believes that keeping the name of the store constantly in front of the public is essential, especially when there’s no upcoming holiday on the calendar.

Flights of Fantasy Store Interior

Maria Perry, owner of Flights of Fantasy (ToyShow) in Loudonville, N.Y., says the holidays don’t affect game stores as dramatically. "We don't have a big spike in business for the holidays. Our sales increase only about 10 percent.”

"With toy stores, they have something new every week. They have to make sure they have everything available," Perry says. "But we try not to order too many things in advance because the turnaround for ordering is just three or four days."

For Donna Frederick, manager and buyer for Playhouse Toy Store (ToyShow) in Durham, N.C., having a small store (only 800 square feet) means, "We don't order extra things at the holidays.”

Keeping Track During the Holiday Rush

According to Gary Teachout, owner of Gary’s Games and Hobbies (ToyShow) in Seattle, “The stuff that we buy direct from manufacturers is very critical because we have to have minimum orders. This is always a problem because number one: Do I want 12 of these things? And number two: Now, we have something that’s going to slow the cash flow area.” To get around this, Gary says that, “somewhere around the end of the 2nd quarter, into the 3rd quarter, we start placing orders for that stuff that we want in for Christmas.”

Lee Doerksen, vice president of the Dragonfly Toy Company (ToyShow) , in Winnipeg, Canada, which specializes in toys for special needs kids, says his company of ten employees re-orders inventory daily. “The systems for handling orders operate every four or five hours,” he said. Though his company makes use of POS inventory control, hand checks are still completed occasionally.

“We do hand checks on inventory at least quarterly,” Doerksen said. “Those are either done on full inventory, bi-yearly or they’re kind of on-spot checks, so they take a slice of the inventory.”

Kip Camp, Manager of Visions Cards and Games (ToyShow) in Montgomery, Alabama, said that it’s just “actual occasional eyes on inventory, just making sure things in the computer – things that are in stock – are actually physically in stock.” Although Camp isn’t normally affected by the inability to meet the minimums, he says that, “[With Games] Workshop (ToyShow) , for example, I can’t [meet the minimums], which is why I only order every two, three or four weeks.”

Shellie’s Mini Mania

Shelly Kazan, owner of Shellie’s Mini Mania (ToyShow) in San Carlos, CA, said, “I’ve been in business 27 years and [checking inventory myself is] the only way – I just look around and see what I’m out of, or I usually place an order so that things will come in for six whole months.”


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