TDmonthly Magazine!
December 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 12


Turning Electronic Appeals Into Specialty Deals

How to Sell More Through a Category You Don’t Carry

“I just find out what kind of a game they’re looking for, and try to take them to the non-electronic version.” Rebecca Pfeil, Timeless Toys
Despite constant advances in the technology market with gadgets, games and computers, as well as electronic toys for children, many specialty toy stores consciously keep their product selection founded in more traditional toys. While not all storeowners strictly exile electronics, more than 80 percent of 68 retailers polled in a recent TDmonthly Magazine survey said their selection of electronic products was, at most, extremely light.

“We don't carry a lot of things that require batteries. The defective rates happen to be a lot higher than things that don’t,” said Michael Temke, buyer for Wind Up Here in Olympia, Wash., of the quality concerns steering him toward classic reliability.

“We’re more for things that are kid-initiated. They’ve got to make it work,” added Wallace Harvey, owner of Three Cheeky Monkeys in Los Angeles, Calif.

Sallie Kashiwa of Timbuk Toys in Denver agreed that electronics should not be a focus. “We feel that electronics are only appropriate in specialty when electronics are needed to enhance the learning or offer a quality that cannot be had without electronics, like sound for phonics. Otherwise, we feel that play should be powered by imagination.”

Whether the reason is quality, philosophy, personal preference, or not wanting to compete with the electronics-rich mass market, don't turn an electronics-seeking customer away. Here are tips for times when customers request a product you simply don’t carry:

1. Start a Conversation. Find out why the customer is looking for that particular item for the child, and guide them toward products tailored to their interests. “We ask questions about what they're looking for and what the child likes to do. Then we make recommendations,” said Cathy Albro, owner of Creative Learning Toys in Grand Rapids, Mich.

2. Go for Like Products. “I just find out what kind of a game they’re looking for, and try to take them to the non-electronic version of whatever it is. If it’s a brainteaser, we have games from ThinkFun; if it’s an electronic chess game, I’ll take them to the regular chess games,” Rebecca Pfeil, owner of Timeless Toys in Homer, Alaska, told TDmonthly.

3. Substitute Active Play. Recommend “a ‘doing’ sort of thing, like lots of different juggling, arts and active [toys],” suggested Tina Schwindt, owner of Fairhaven Toy Garden in Bellingham, Wash. “Not necessarily outdoor, but something that they can use their hands with.”

4. Get Into Games. Thirty percent of retailers said they usually direct customers to their game department, favoring the child's interaction with the product and other people over electronically initiated play. “We still do the traditional board games … family games that include more than one person,” said Greg Bonner, owner of Heights Toy Center in Little Rock, Ark.

5. Find Interaction. “We recommend toys where the kid’s in charge of the play instead of the toy being in charge,” said Mary Sisson, owner of Kazoodles in Vancouver, Wash. “We try to find alternatives that will exercise kids’ brains or bodies or whatever seems to fit the bill.”

If they simply must have something with a current, retailers said they often do good business with handheld games and brain teasers such as Radica's 20Q, or open-ended educational products, such as Elenco's popular Snap Circuits line. In any case, retailers feel that the opportunity to provide their unique service and expertise results in a good experience for the customer.

“We build on imagination and family fun,” concluded Susan Castor, owner of Pentwater Toy Box in Pentwater, Mich. “We show them something and they almost always buy something.”

See products mentioned in the article below:

Wholesale Price: (Log in to view)
MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 8 and up
Launch Date: November 2008
Category: General Games
Puzzles & Skill

Quadrillions of possibilities, 36 Cube seems simple, but is stunningly complex. The directions sound simple: build a perfect cube by arranging the towers so each color is represented only once in every row and column - all while making sure the top remains level. It's a tall order, but it's one that brings hours upon hours of addictive fun. Strikingly colorful construction begs to be displayed. And although it's difficult to solve 36 Cube completely, the fun is working to improve each time it's played. That's part of the game's mystique: initially, you believe you can't solve it. Until you discover that you can. Launch date: November 17, 2008.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 19687      (added 1/9/2009)

MSRP: $99.95
Age Range: 8 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature

With this deluxe version, kids can build their own RC Snap Rover using the colorful Snap Circuits parts that come with the kit. There is no soldering required; all the parts simply snap together with ease. Once the Snap Rover is completed, kids can navigate their surroundings with the easy-to-use remote control. The Deluxe features a disc shooter, a digital voice recorder, music sounds, a wireless microphone and more than 20 other experiments.
— "The Deluxe Snap Rover comes with remote control and can be navigated both forward and backward. It all snaps together with ease and comes with a full assembly manual,” said Walter Larsen, national sales manager for Elenco.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 15062      (added 9/6/2007)

MSRP: $19.99
Age Range: 5 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Electronic Games

This game is a friendlier version of the classic 20 questions game, created with younger children in mind. The game itself features simplified questions and answers and is built to better fit in small hands. To play, kids simply think of an object and then answer a series of 20 questions about the object. 20Q Junior is programmed to engage in child-friendly banter and enthusiastic encouragement. Kids can use color-illustrated and themed picture cards to help them identify an object. 
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 13829      (added 6/29/2007)

Marie RavenWriter's Bio: Marie Raven has a long history with the specialty toy industry as a family business. In addition to freelancing for TDmonthly Magazine, she writes creative and technical material for various other businesses. Read more articles by this author


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