What makes a toy a hot seller? Is it due to a catchy name or a colorful
package? Or maybe even an aggressive advertising campaign? In the Nature
and Discovery Store, a toy’s popularity is often determined on
their Play Table.
What is a Play Table?
At each of his three Nature and Discovery Stores, owner Joseph Mistishen
has a large table filled with toys for customers to sample and try out.
Manipulative puzzles and games are ideal candidates for the Play Table.
Instructions for these types of toys often fall into two categories: either
directions are over-simplified, failing to highlight the challenges the
game offers, or they are so detailed and confusing that customers abandon
the toy for one easier to understand.
“Some things need to be put out,” says Mistishen. “Customers need instruction
in them. In the packages they are not understood.” Customers also have
the opportunity to experience exactly what they’ll be buying: size and
number of game pieces, quality of construction, etc.
How Do You Use the Play Table?
It isn’t enough to take games out of their boxes and place them on the
Play Table; they need to be explained. When asked if it’s easier to sell
the games featured on his tables, Mistishen answers enthusiastically,
“Without a doubt.” But he also points out that employees have to know
how to play the games for the Play Table to work. When training new employees,
Mistishen shows them a few new games and toys each day and encourages
them to practice whenever they have downtime during their shift.
What Are the Problems with the Play Table?
The Mega Magz Construction Set
Mistishen admits he has to keep after his employees, reminding them “the
important part is doing and showing.” With the table directly in front
of the checkout counter, Mistishen says shoplifting and breakage aren’t
a significant problem. But inevitably, some things do seem to be irresistible
to shoppers, such as tiny magnetic silver balls from the building set
Magz. Although the balls are being taken, their location
on the table has made these sets a fast seller. The company compensates
Mistishen for the losses by sending him free sample balls every time he
places an order, ensuring Magz’s place on his Play Table.
Blue Orange's Newest Gobblet
What are the Advantages of the Play Table?
“Sometimes you need to experience [samples] to realize they are really
fun,” Mistishen says. When I visited, he pointed to a new addition to
his inventory, the board game Gobblet. If the game were
still in the box, Mistishen might tell customers that the object is to
get four game pieces in the row and prevent your opponent from doing the
same. Sounds, unfortunately, like a redux of Tic-Tac-Toe. But, with the
help of the game board and pieces, Mistishen soon had me laughing as he
showed me how pieces can “gobble” each other up, and how gobbled pieces
can come back into play. The game is actually a lot more fun than Tic-Tac-Toe--so
much more fun that I decided to buy Gobblet. Score one more for the Play
To view recent industry sales figures for Games and Puzzles, Click