TDmonthly Magazine!
November 2010 | Vol. IX - No. 11


How to Be Irresistible and Unforgettable, Part I: Branding

Memorable Logos and Consistency Pay Off

With thousands of advertising and branding messages vying daily for your customers' time and money, your store has to offer something that no one else does... and offer it consistently. From the name to the logo, everything associated with your store should grow out if its central concept.

"We don't just have a logo itself, but a whole marketing plan that tells our story with the logo," Terri Bracken, owner of Earth Explorer Toys in Zionsville, Ind., told TDmonthly Magazine. "Our logo has ‘Toys' in the middle and ‘Earth Explorer' around the outside because we want people to realize we're toys. I bought the store with the name, and many people thought it was science stuff only."

Rob Marsh, vice president of operations at, told TDmonthly that sometimes the most imaginative concept for a logo simply does not work.

"Look at the original logo for StoneBridge Inn ("Before" and "After" logos)," he said. "It was a great idea, but it wasn't readable. It was too dark." (See Create a Killer Logo)

Every element must help tie up your store into one unforgettable package — including the free wrapping paper you offer.

"My logo and red/tan gingham bags are now recognized around town," said Jeanette Lauture, owner of Aunt Jean's Toys & Treats in Montclair, N.J., which opened in March 2008. "I have many customers tell me, ‘Whenever I see your gingham bags, and when we go to birthday parties and see your wrapped gifts, we know it's from Aunt Jean's.' That makes the hairs on my arms stand up. I have accomplished my goal."

Keep Them Busy

Denis Hofstetter, owner of Atlanta's The Toy Store, founded in 1989, made his store extra kid-friendly by running a movie and plunking down a pinball machine in the open play area to keep kids occupied while parents shop in peace.

Pamper Them

Fred Rosenberg's Toys & Candy On the Park (open since 1996), the only five-star toy store in southeast Texas, added a coffee bar in 2008 that offers harried parents chocolate-covered strawberries and chocolate-flavored coffee in decaf or regular. Though employees must be certified as food-service managers and health inspectors drop by periodically, the extra work pays off by increasing profit margins and broadening the store's appeal, Rosenberg assured TDmonthly.

Bring Them Bunnies

Phillips Toy Mart in Nashville is memorable for its 11,000-sq.-ft. space, tens of thousands of SKUs … and real Easter bunnies. As soon as Christmas is over, Phillips quickly restocks for the Easter stampede and fattens up his advertising.

"We really want to look sharp and get those bunnies on TV," he said. "It's a good money month with the bunnies, and it's great exposure. If customers are happy at Easter, they'll be back for Christmas."

Go Antiquing

Heights Toy Center (known locally as HTC) has been in business for more than 50 years and is still going strong. HTC's unique look is due in part to the fact that owner Greg Bonner doesn't buy many displays from manufacturers.

"My father [the previous owner] would go prowl around antique stores and see a hutch and say, ‘That's great for dolls.' No one else was doing that," he told TDmonthly.

Showcase the Arts

When Phil Hueber took over and renamed Cedar Chest Kids in Northampton, Mass., he commissioned murals that defined the store's departments (e.g., a jungle scene for the plush department), plus echoed the neighborhood's identity as a visual and performing arts community.

Focus on the Rare

One-of-a-kind designer action figures has made an icon of KidRobot, which opened in 2002 and now has four stores across the country. Owner Paul Budnitz told TDmonthly that the limited nature of his product "creates an urgency for buying."

"What can parents count on no matter which of your products they purchase for their children? The answer is your brand promise."— Beth Flom, Flag + Company
Carry Complete Lines

Offering entire lines of just a few products has succeeded since 1996 for Essence of Nonsense, a retailer in St. Paul, Minn., that boasts 1,500 plush bears in its inventory. The store is also the largest glass marble retailer in five states. According to Co-owner Barbara Anderson, "We have people who plan their vacations to come to our store to get marbles."

Celebrate Diversity

According to a U.S. Census Bureau May 1, 2008, press release, "the nation's Hispanic population increased 1.4 million to reach 45.5 million on July 1, 2007," and 34 percent of that population is under the age of 18.

Denise Gary Robinson conducted a survey in 2004 and found that only 61 out of 474 Hispanic children had dolls representing their ethnic backgrounds. She opened — an online specialty retailer that provides quality multicultural merchandise.

Address Special Needs

According to Safe Kids USA, 13 percent of the U.S. population under 18 years of age has been diagnosed with special needs. Ariel's Child, founded in 1986 by speech therapist Ricki Block, addresses the educational and special-needs market. Present owner Helen Funt continues the store's mission of finding fun toys that also help children develop skills.

Pillage Europe

Eric Masoncup, owner of Geppetto's Toy Box in Oak Park, Ill., doesn't just specialize in European-made toys; he also imports and distributes several European lines, including Woodland Magic craft kits and Gluckskafer child-sized cookware. Online retailers and are devoted to high-end European toys, such as HABA and Djeco.

Go Green

Interest in eco-friendly, organic and USA-made toys was boosted by the 2007 toy-recall scandals. You can find manufacturers who specialize in these categories by searching TDmonthly's New Toys articles under the "American-made" and "Eco-friendly" categories. The Little Seed, a Los Angeles store founded by actress Soleil Moon Frye (best known as Punky Brewster), specializes in eco-friendly and organic products, including Holztiger figurines, which are made of European hardwood and colored with water-based paints.

Be Super-High End ... But Cautious

On March 7, 2008, Aline Sullivan reported in the International Herald Tribune on a recent survey by the consulting company Prince & Associates, in which it was found that "consumers worth more than $10 million in assets planned to increase their spending this year on luxury goods, while those with less will cut back."

Since that article was published, even the wealthy have scaled back certain purchases and regard bargain-shopping as a virtue, according to an article in Forbes. Teri Weiss of The Elegant Child in Beverly Hills, though, has not seen any significant changes in her business since the recession, mainly because her clients buy her infant gift baskets to woo and impress their own upscale clientele. If you pick a niche as specialized as hers, it may be possible to reach that market no matter how the economy deteriorates.

Give Grandpa His Toys Back

Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone, jack-in-the-boxes, rocking horses, Cabbage Patch Kids, Mrs. Beasley, Flatsies, and Strawberry Shortcake were popular with today's grandparents when they were yesterday's kids, and now they want to give their grandchildren the same toys they had. Note that many classic toys are also collectibles. The National Toy Hall of Fame is a good reference if you're looking to tap into the nostalgia market.

Other contributors to this article may have included: Julie Adrian • Michaele Birney Arneson • Leigh Au • Christina Chan • Julia Ann Charpentier • Elizabeth Chretien • Virginia Davis • Laurel DiGangi • Zan Dubin Scott • Lisa Durante • Cicely Enright • Margaret H. Evans • Doug Fleener • Diane Franklin • Janie Franz • Dennis Foley • Dennis Furlan • Rosette Gonzalez • Elizabeth Greenspan • Mort Haaz • Sharri Hefner • Terri Hughes-Lazzell • Kyle Hall • Pennie Hoover • Sheri Jobe • Julie L. Jones • Candyce Kornblum • Christine Lebednik • Susan Ledford • Chris Lundy • Susan Maddela • Hans C. Masing • J.D. Meisner • Adeena Mignogna • Catherine Jo Morgan • Claudia Newcorn • Willow Polson • Marie Raven • Kara Revel • Andrew Robinton • Greg Rock • Brenda Ruggiero • Tamara Schuit • Brent Turner • Vanessa VanderZanden • Jodi M. Webb • Stacy Wiebe• Mark Zaslove • Alex Zelikovsky

Alison MarekWriter's Bio: ALISON MAREK is an award-winning writer, director and cartoonist whose work has been published by Fairchild Publications and DC Comics (Piranha Press), broadcast on Showtime and other cable networks, and viewed worldwide in film festivals. See her short films and print work on Watch her nefarious villains in the web series Get inspired by her cartoons "Daily ARFFirmations to Unleash Your Inner Fido" at Phew! And then ...  Read more articles by this author


Back to TDmonthly's front page

Advertise on TDmonthly

Related Product Archives

STEM Robot Mouse Coding Activity Set
» More Information

Brain Dice
» More Information

Balancing Tree
» More Information

Related Articles
·Toys in the News 03/21/2024
·Toys in the News 02/28/2024
·Toy Recalls November 2023
·Retailers Report: What we want in 2014
·Specialty Retailers Predict Hot Holiday Toys of 2014
·Setting the mood: What music should you play in your store?