The following article is part of TDmonthly Magazine’s continuing coverage of how to compete with Wal-Mart. Click here to read last month´s segment of this ongoing report.
|"(W)hen you only have 300 or 500 of something, it only means
that 300 or 500 people need to like it, so we can take bigger risks."
—Paul Budnitz, owner of KidRobot
Most independent toy retailers create a merchandise niche by selecting products not sold by mass merchants. Some go further, and stock only toys that cannot be found elsewhere.
The retailer KidRobot stocks hard-to-get and one-of-a-kind designer action figures by such artists as Michael Lau, Eric So, Tristan Eaton and Jamie Hewlett. Owner Paul Budnitz started with a single store in San Francisco in 2002, but KidRobot was so successful that Rudnitz opened two more stores: one in Santa Monica, Calif., and the other in New York City.
KidRobot also commissions special figures direct from the artists, guaranteeing that no other store will carry the same figure. Budnitz, whose background is in art and animation, has even designed and sold some of his own figures, as have some of his staff. With its Run DMC Mez-Itz Set by Mezco, Budnitz and his team took a product that was mass produced and put a KidRobot spin on it by redesigning the clothing and accessories. The product is one of the store’s top-selling items and is currently “sold-out” on its Web site.
The limited nature of his product “creates an urgency for buying,” Budnitz says. “On the one hand, [the customers] keep coming back because the stock keeps changing. And when you only have 300 or 500 of something, it only means that 300 or 500 people need to like it, so we can take bigger risks.”
One of the biggest risks is the price tag. Some of the 12” action figures run as high as $295.95. But Budnitz hasn’t forgotten the smallest collectors: Smurf and Maffy Kubrick collectibles sell for just $9.95.