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June 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 6




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Retailer Spotlight: LB Toys

Savvy Web Sales and Room to Play Keep Store Afloat


“It’s hard to make a buck in the toy industry.” Jamie Burdette, LB Toys
Glitches in the rise to success may sometimes serve as launching pads into unexpected careers. Such was the case for Jamie Burdette, owner of LB Toys in Media, Pa.

GIFT REGISTRY SPARKS TOY STORE


“I had actually been in web design for a number of years,” he told TDmonthly Magazine. “I developed an online application [called Gift Registry 21] for smaller stores to set up and enable online gift registries. … While the concept never took off with the smaller stores, we had significant traffic to the site from consumers, but nothing to offer them. Hence, we started to carry product ourselves, and it just turned out to be toys.”

Jamie launched the online store with his wife, Nicole, and another partner in 2003. The brick-and-mortar store followed a year later. Financing was the biggest obstacle, with the partners each contributing funds. Even today, profit can be challenging.

BATTLING FOR THE BOTTOM LINE


“It’s hard to make a buck in the toy industry,” Jamie said, noting that there are approximately “10 other specialty toy stores within a 15-mile radius” of his store.

His main concern, though, is competition from online sellers. “While many of our vendors are supposedly geared toward the specialty market, many of them sell to Toys R Us, Target and Amazon.com as well.”

Damaged goods and packaging from manufacturers can also hurt profit, Jamie told TDmonthly. “While we can get credit for the goods from the vendor most of the time, if the product was shipped out, we eat the cost for re-shipping,” he explained. “Many times this will kill any profit we made, and in some instances we lose money.”

CAPTURING INTERNET SALES

Jamie said his biggest mistake was continuing to work at his web design job until last summer.

“If I had been more involved early on, I would have had far more time to focus on our Internet sales,” he said. “Some of the purchasing decisions would also probably have been different.”

Jamie lists one of his biggest successes as the store’s relationship with Amazon.com.

“We began selling in their marketplace in 2006 and significantly increased our product line on Amazon in 2007,” he said. “We were able to become a featured merchant on the website in 2007, which has led to dramatic increase in online sales.”

BUILDING CUSTOMER LOYALTY

In the brick-and-mortar world, success is counted differently. LB Toys has a loyal following of local customers. Jamie works hard to keep folks coming back.

They‘ve learned that newspaper ads don’t work for them. But, along with the rest of the shops in the Media area, the store participates in “Second Saturday,” when every store features a concert or other special event on the second Saturday of each month.

“We also usually host one other event a month,” Jamie said. “Last month, a local zoo brought animals to the store and had a short education session about animal senses. This month we are having a comedy magician.”

Twenty percent of the store’s space is devoted to a play area that allows kids to test toys firsthand.

Jamie’s toy research often involves customer requests, but he occasionally brings products home to his own children. “It helps to actually see how kids react to it in person,” he said.

To see which toys receive the best customer response at his store, read “My Best Sellers: LB Toys.”



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Brenda RuggieroWriter's Bio: Brenda Ruggiero is a freelance writer from western Maryland. Read more articles by this author

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