February 2004 | Vol. III - No. 2
Young or old, most people have a favorite stuffed toy. Plush has a special place in consumers´ hearts; so how can retailers tap into this natural affinity and help plush products attract the attention they deserve? We talked to some experts in the industry and asked them for tips on how to create a thriving plush section.
License to Thrill
Emily Van Auken, vice president of marketing for Fiesta (ToyDirectory;ToyShow ), says licensed products are in demand. "Kids want licensed plush, that´s the bottom line," says Van Auken. "Don´t underestimate your youth consumer. Children are very savvy consumers and they know licenses and they know brands." She says licensed plush can compliment other licensed products, such as stationary. "If [retailers] have other licensed merchandise, then [licensed] plush really makes sense."
Still, Van Auken encourages retailers to balance licensed products with traditional plush.
Elaine Wolf Baker, product development manager for Bestever Inc. (ToyDirectory), says, "It depends on the customer base of that particular store." She feels a store´s physical location is a huge factor. "If the store is located near a movie theater, video store or some similar venue promoting licensed characters, it may have a good market for licensed plush."
However, Wolf Baker advises storeowners to be aware of the fickle nature of the licensed product market. "Just like a financial portfolio, it is always safer to carry a mix of licensed and non-licensed product," she says.
Mix It Up
Retailers should strive to offer a variety of plush products if they want to clear shelves. "It´s important to provide your customer with the best product mix that you can, instead of just pigeon-holing yourself as a retailer of ´XYZ´ line," Van Auken says. "If you only offer one or two branded companies, you´re really going to miss parts of your market where people might just want a nice, generic piece of plush." She concludes, "Variety is the spice of life, but you have to be selective."
According to Wolf Baker, "The number one factor in store display is visual impact. A great store display needs to be so visually appealing that it draws the customer in to see, touch and buy!" She explains, "The first concern is how to make people notice your display, whether it is through the use of strong color, huge sizes or repetition of items-like 50 yellow ducks in a row."
Stack ´Em High
David Socha, president of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear, believes that when retailers stock up on a particular product-and put lots of merchandise on display at once-it gives consumers the impression the product is in demand. "I´m one that says, ´Stack ´em high and watch ´em fly,´ meaning buy a lot and stack them up because people like to see that it could be a hot commodity," says Socha.
Wolf Baker adds, "Most buyers are not small children, so there is no need to present plush any lower than other products."
Socha suggests creating themed scenes in both window and aisle displays. "When we make little themes, it seems to draw people to that area. [It could be like] you´re in the land of Precious Moments or Paddington Bear," explains Socha.
Van Auken advises organizing store shelves by price range, that way consumers don´t waste time looking at products they don´t care to purchase. "Take the guesswork out of it for your consumer," she says. "If retailers don´t think people are shopping by price, they´re fooling themselves."
Sometimes, organization isn´t all it´s cracked up to be. Socha says, "People like to see a messy shelf because they feel like they´re getting a deal. They feel like they´re finding something that no one else is going to have." He adds, "Clip strips are very good," referring to the dangling rope with hooks used to hang products at the end of aisles.
Some of the best ideas are the most obvious. Wolf Baker of encourages retailers to, "Stay informed. Stay in touch with children. Look at their magazines and movies, watch cartoons occasionally. Talk to young parents, grandparents, and gather as much information as possible about the market."
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