TDmonthly Magazine!
November 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 11


Retailing Tips: Turn Mass-Market Fiends Into Specialty Lovers

Encourage Customers to Buy Toys That Play … and Pay

“Specialty toys offer more value and have an educational aspect, so getting that across to customers is important.” Sue Warfield, ASTRA
Kids might be crazy for the licensed products they see on TV cartoons, but they’re not likely the same toys found in your specialty toy store. Nevertheless, with the right tools and explanations, storeowners told TDmonthly Magazine, redirecting customers to the toys you offer can translate not only into sales, but also into regular customers.

Here are six tips:

1. Find out what they want. Although Capitol Kids in Madison, Wis., doesn’t carry licensed products, the store does carry toys that are similar in play.

“When we ask enough questions and engage them in conversation, we can direct them to items they may like even more,” Owner Peg Scholtes said.

2. Educate them. “Specialty toys offer more value and have an educational aspect, so getting that across to customers is important,” Sue Warfield, president of ASTRA, told TDmonthly. Explain the educational, developmental and imaginative benefits your toys offer. Remind them that "your toys are kid- and brain-powered,” added Warfield.

3. Showcase your differences. Although Karito Kids specialty dolls are in some ways similar to Mattel’s American Girl dolls, President Laura Rangel of KidsGive said they offer more.

“Our dolls give kids more than just a doll. They give them an opportunity to help another child and learn about the beauty of diversity,” she said. In addition, she told TDmonthly that the dolls were designed to represent an 11-year-old’s body and are not just baby dolls with older faces.

4. Give them more for their money. ÜberStix’s Überbots RC are progressive, meaning the play changes because a child can rebuild a robot to be stronger when it loses at battle.

“Our Überbots offer more play and teach kids how to use simple and compound machines,” CEO Dane Scarborough told TDmonthly. “Eighty percent of the play time is spent designing, engineering and inventing.”

5. Learn from your customers. “We may not carry what they’re asking for, in some cases because we choose not to, and in some cases because we’re not familiar with it,” said Patricia Masing, co-owner of Tree Town Toys in Ann Arbor, Mich. “We learn from our customers and sometimes end up bringing on new items.”

6. Create new regulars. Deb Necker, owner of Amato’s in Middletown, Conn., estimated that 90 percent of redirected customers become regulars.

“We have a great retention,” she told TDmonthly. “We’re kind of a fascinating place, and once they come in they usually do come back and become regular customers.”

So, get to chatting and highlighting the pluses of all those specialty toys you carry. Listen to what customers have to say, and show them what plays in your store.

Here are the toys mentioned in this article:

MSRP: $149.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Construction
Remote Controlled

“Kids” can create radio-controlled, rumbling robots and pit up to six of them against each other at a time, thanks to six interchangeable RC frequencies. Working with sturdy, yet flexible interlocking Uberstix components, builders utilize physics, engineering and creative skills to design robots that can trounce their opponents. In the heat of battle, UberBots employ jabs and hooks and even speak preprogrammed Japanese phrases designed to conquer all foes. Knocking down an opponent three times is a win. Then the fighters retire to redesign their Bots and devise another unbeatable strategy for victory. The 621 kit includes two UberBots, 250 Uberstix pieces, two remote controls, two flags, 14 rechargeable Ni-Cad batteries, two chargers and building instructions.
— These Japanese-speaking robotic construction toys received a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award for many reasons: the scientific knowledge they invite in construction and redesign, their RC capability to fight multiple robots at one time, the creativity and inventiveness required when reprogramming the UberBots, and the signature, interlocking Überstix parts that make up their distinctive structure. Finally, Überstix are made from recycled plastic and can be combined with other building toys, setting their kits on a higher plane than other construction toys.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 12117      (added 3/28/2007)

MSRP: $199.00
Age Range: 7 and up
Gender: Girls
Category: Dolls

Eighteen-inch Julie and Ivy come from way back in the 1970s, ancient history to most little girls, but not to their moms. In this collection, each doll is dressed in ‘70s fashions and accessories. It comes with two books: “Meet Julie” and “Good Luck, Ivy.” Separately available are other 1970s fashions, such as top-stitched cowboy boots and peasant blouses.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15143      (added 9/12/2007)

Terri Hughes-LazzellWriter's Bio: Terri Hughes-Lazzell is a freelance journalist based in Ossian, Ind. After spending nearly a decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she has worked as a freelance journalist for more than ten years, writing about a variety of topics. Her work appears in newspapers, magazines and specialty publications nationwide. Read more articles by this author


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