Best Toys for Beginnings
Selling Playthings at Baby Stores and Boutiques

Playthings for babies come in all shapes and sizes, and include such items as toys, plush and books. Some even have a functional purpose like being educational or serving as a teething device. So how can shops that cater to infants get plaything merchandise off of their shelves and into the hands of babes?

Knowing what sells well at other baby boutiques can help you get the upper hand when choosing products. Sarah Godwin, owner, The Pure Parenting Shop, Houston, Texas, said Malarkey Kids’ Munch Mitt is a wearble silicone teething mitten that shoppers can’t resist. It’s ideal for infants who cannot grasp or hold a standard teether. It makes a crinkling sound when a baby moves their hand. “People are drawn to it because it stays on younger children and keeps them entertained,” she said. “When babies are biting their fingers it gives them a bumpy texture, which they desire for their gums when teething. It is brightly colored, so it stimulates the brain and eyes.”

Brenda Diaz, owner, left, with Andrea Daciuk, sales associate, Buttercup Baby Co., Las Vegas, Nev. Gund’s Flappy the Elephant is a top seller for the store.

Taggies from Mary Meyer Stuffed Toys also sell well. The product features an animal or square with tags sewn all around it. A ring makes it easy to attach it to a car seat, high chair or stroller. “Infants love sucking on the tags,” she said. They are brightly colored, some contain squeakers, and they have different textures and fabrics.

Crayon Rocks also rock at The Pure Parenting Shop. These bean-shaped crayons about the size of a quarter are easy for small hands to hold unlike crayons, which can break in a young child’s grasp. “When babies hold them they help to develop their fine motor muscles, which helps them grasp a crayon or pencil easier later on.” By packaging them in groups of eight colors, youngsters aren’t confused by all of the different shades of colors when learning colors. “It makes it less overwhelming for them,” said Godwin, who adds that tots are drawn to them because they are small and they perfectly fit into their hands. They can easily draw with them by using a back and forth motion. Crayon Rocks also come in packs of 16 and 32 for older children.

Brenda Diaz, owner, Buttercup Baby Co., Las Vegas, Nev., said Gund’s Flappy the Elephant, an animated plush that plays “peek-a-boo” and sings “Do Your Ears Hang Low,” is a top seller at her 6,200-square-foot store because the plush makes you smile and giggle, regardless of your age. 

Another hit is Smart Noggin NogginStik. This developmental light-up rattle is designed to be baby’s first learning toy. “It’s a top seller because parents love that it is an educational toy that helps promote visual tracking, grasping and reaching skills,” Diaz said.

Fat Brain Pipsquigz Loops, a vibrant orange, suction cup toy that features a soft rattle and different textures, is also popular with Diaz’s customers. “As soon as babies see them, they are hooked,” she said. “This toy combines teething, fine motor skill development and is perfect entertainment for little ones at a restaurant or on a plane.” 

Slumberkins, plush that are sold with an affirmation board book, are a top-selling plaything for Morgan Miller, owner, Baby Sweet Pea’s Boutique, Uniontown, Ohio. “The stories are designed to help kids deal with certain emotions such as anxiety or stress,” she said.

Another stellar seller is Jellycat plush. “They have a humongous line; we carry a lot of it,” said Milller, whose store has 1,600 square feet of retail space. “Many of their animals have touch-and-feel books to accompany them. They are super high quality, and can serve as an heirloom.”

Fat Brain Toys’ Dimpl also rocks. The sensory board contains five brightly colored and different sized silicon popping buttons on it. “It’s a good fidget toy that appeals to kids ages 6 months and older,” Miller said. “We keep them by the register; people like to pick them up and pop the bubbles back and forth. It’s small enough for babies to hold and for moms to put in a purse or diaper bag to take along and keep their baby occupied when they’re out.”

Promoting Add-Ons

So how can shopkeepers get customers to add a toy to their apparel purchase? Godwin has strategically placed packages of eight Crayon Rocks next to the register along with paper. “Shoppers will pick up a crayon, start doodling with it and discover how neat it is,” she said. It’s low price point of $5.99 seals the deal. 

When promoting add-ons to apparel, Godwin will often comment on the benefits of doing so such as the suggested product will match what they already plan to purchase. For example, if someone is buying a shirt featuring a llama, she’ll point out that a llama teether would go well with it. “I try to find a theme,” she said. 

Another way to encourage add-ons is to ask shoppers who they are shopping for when they enter the 750-square-foot store. Godwin might ask if the recipient is registered and what they might like. “A lot of people like to buy apparel as a gift because it’s fun and cutesy, so the key is to find something to accompany it,” she said.

Diaz encourages customers to have their children hold onto a Fat Brain Toys’ Dimpl or Smart Noggin NogginStik when they shop. “Children are very intrigued with these products, and their attention is held throughout the shopping time,” she said. “Parents typically purchase these toys on top of their apparel purchase. We also have additional products near the registers that we consider impulse buys.”

Have demo products out, Miller recommended. “Sometimes a toy’s box doesn’t always describe what it does or what it’s benefits are,” she said. 

To increase a gift’s perceived value, Gloria Clawson, owner, Kids ‘N Kribs, Wayne, Pa., will recommend using a gift topper or adding on a coordinating plush. The shop has about 2,800-square-feet of retail space. 

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