September 2006 | Vol. V - No. 9
What began as a means to educate retailers on how to display Fantasma Toys magic products has become a retail venture in and of itself. But not just any retail venture: It’s a unique “retailtainment” space that blends performance and gallery-style displays with merchandising.
Selling Is Show Business
Positioned across the street from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, The Magical Toy Experience — Fantasma won’t find it hard to draw in the location’s 40 million visitors per year. With multiple flat-screen televisions, non-stop performances on two stages from jugglers and magicians, 3-D holographic film, an animatronic Houdini performing his straight-jacket escape routine four times an hour, a birthday party room where kids can levitate, a buyer showroom lodged behind a vault, a VIP showroom where celebrities and athletes receive private magic lessons, black light space and numerous optical illusions, Fantasma has poised itself to reenergize magic sales for years to come by inspiring a new generation of young magicians.
“The most amazing thing we had not anticipated was that a dozen to two dozen families come back every weekend to get something,” confided Roger Dreyer, founder and CEO of Fantasma Toys, and owner of The Magical Toy Experience — Fantasma.
In only three and a half years of manufacturing, Fantasma Toys has managed to become the exclusive magic supplier to FAO Schwarz, and its products are currently available at 22,000 different locations across the country. Given the new Fantasma store, which opened May 11 with 13 windows of signage, Dreyer expects to “increase awareness of our brand” both with consumers and retailers. So far, results have been good.
Making Magic Junkies
“They’re gettin’ bitten, unquestionably,” Dreyer said. “Adults are coming back on their lunch breaks [and] retailers are hearing about what we’re doing here in New York.”
But beyond branding alone, Dreyer — a magician since age 11 — believes in increasing appreciation for magic. That may be why he doesn’t limit displays to Fantasma products alone, carrying optically-stimulating products from other manufacturers, including Play Visions, Can You Imagine, Fascinations, Stylus Writing and Playmates. According to Dreyer, all manufacturers have been very pleased with being selected.
“Magic is wholesome family entertainment,” Dreyer pointed out. “Magic develops hand-eye coordination, improves creativity and public speaking and builds confidence.”
Already in the works, Fantasma will be a sponsor for season ticket holders of the New York Knicks and will put on a half-time show during the holidays. Though he wouldn’t provide details, Dreyer said the wow-factor will be high. And, going forward, Fantasma plans on pursuing Marvel Entertainment for use of its Spider-Man license.
Turning Setbacks to Opportunities
One of the most intriguing wrinkles in the Fantasma story, though, is how the retail operation came about: When the lease expired on the International Toy Center, home of numerous toy showrooms for 100 years, manufacturers began looking for new showroom space. Dreyer, who was among the evicted, recognized the opportunity to grow his brand when he discovered that the location on Seventh and Thirty-third was available.
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