By Karen Appold
For Steve Presser, founder and owner, Big Fun Toy Store, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, displaying his store’s diverse inventory is a game in itself. “I have video game junkies that work for me, and we approach stocking shelves like playing Tetris,” he said. “We stuff shelves as tightly as possible, displaying as much merchandise as we can; it’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. This offers our customers a visual smorgasbord.”
Merchandise is organized into compartmentalized sections at the 3,400-square-foot store, such as Cleveland merchandise, jokes and gags, video games, collectibles and superheroes. “In our 26 years in business, we’ve used every form of display from old-school pegboards to antique fixtures. We mix and match to create an unusual retail climate market,” Presser said. The store garners between $300,000 and $600,000 annually.
Megan Beidl, owner, Bartons Toys, Charleston, S.C., said the diversity of products’ shapes and sizes makes displays interesting. “If boxes are all the same size and color, the eye would gloss over them and wouldn’t see individual items,” she said. “We break them up by stacking items, using risers, putting something round in the middle of a bunch of squares or displaying something related to it with it.”
Bartons Toys also aims to make displays fun and unexpected at the 1,500-square-foot store. “We’ll put sunglasses and swimmees on a dinosaur, and put him on a surfboard with his alligator buddy,” Beidl said. “Our mascot, Myrtle the Giraffe, always is adorned with a new outfit.”
Space is tight, especially in New York City, said Judy Ishayik, owner, Mary Arnold Toys, a 2,400-square-foot store in New York, N.Y. “We have a variety of shelving displays with different heights and depths,” she said. “We typically display toys in themes, to keep the shopping experience cohesive.”
Ishayik also uses merchandisers sent by manufacturers that are specifically made to display their products. For example, it keeps Kickboard USA scooters on its standing rack and puts extra stock and colors in storage. Staff assemble larger items such as kitchens, strollers, bikes and pianos, and put them on top shelves for displays. “We use every inch of space we can,” she said. “We also take items out of boxes and display them in storefront windows.”
Joe Novak, owner Kazoo Toys, Atlanta, Ga., said he sections off the 2,400-square-foot store by category such as construction, science, puzzles, games, outdoor items, plush, vehicles and dress up, as well as age two and under—since this age group has more safety concerns. “This also helps us planogram, as similar categories usually share a certain type of packaging, enabling them to be displayed in a certain way. To promote a more premium feel, we use white solid wood shelving so products pop as much as possible,” he said. “Shelving is adjustable, as we constantly bring in new items with different dimensions.”
At Toys To Love in Houston, Texas, Owner Katie Meeks places larger items such as ride-on toys and doll furniture up high and takes down items as requested. “We use grids for clothing and any item that can be pegged,” she said. “Everything else goes on shelving. We put our favorite items at eye level and bigger items that will draw attention either up high or down low. We have to rework shelving heights often and do major overhauls when receiving large shipments. Reworking everything often is a lot of work, but it keeps the store looking fresh and organized.”
Capturing the Most Attention
So which areas of a store seem to glean the most attention from customers? Presser said impulse items by the register are eye-catching. These include Fidget spinners, retro candy, and rings and things. “These items tend be reasonably priced under $5 and also include higher theft items,” Presser said. To bring attention to a specific area, he uses bold primary colors on walls and fixtures.
Beidl said the entryway slows people down since she places seasonal merchandise upfront: beachy in summer, scary things in fall, Christmas after that—and then the red is maintained for Valentines Day, and so on. “However, a lot of customers are looking for baby items, which are in the back,” she said.
Like Beidl, Ishayik places seasonal merchandise in the entryway. “This creates a full, fun, colorful story as soon as the customer walks in,” she said. At the register area, the newest pick-up items are displayed. During the summer, its newest selection of Fidget toys and small, summer items were placed there.
An island display in the middle of the store features another pick-up area, with items ranging from $4 to $32. The area houses a mix of seasonal and hot toys, such as Shopkins, Nom Noms and Mashums as well as bubbles, sidewalk chalk, birdhouse making kits and travel games.
Kazoo Toys has a winding hardwood path down the middle of the store that eventually leads to a back-end cash wrap. “This encourages guests to explore our store and by winding, the increased vertical surface area they are exposed to adds to the chance they will find something they are excited about,” Novak said. “They can also see many category sections this way. We also create more end-cap opportunities through the more organic wind than with right angles.”
Areas surrounding the register garner the most attention at her 3,500-square-foot store, Meeks said. “We stock our newest and trendiest items upfront and our regular customers know that’s where they should look for them,” she said. “I always put seasonal items upfront on the counter because they are great add-on items. I put things on the counter that people aren’t necessarily shopping for it, but they see them while they’re waiting to check out and can’t resist them.”
Managing the Demand for Hands-On Play
Engaging the public with product samples can be difficult, because some customers cross the line when handling them. Big Fun Toy Store has signage stating that customers under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
“Sometimes, you have to be frank with customers,” Presser said. “Be polite, but let them know that while a sample is out to get people excited about a product, you do plan to sell it. Tell them that you want other children and families to be able to enjoy it.”
Beidl tries to get demos from manufacturers, so it’s not a big deal if a game or puzzle becomes shopworn or eventually misses pieces. “If we can’t get a demo, then we just break open one item and display it for open play,” she said. “When we switch it out for something newer, we’ll save the used one for our ‘dings and demos’ sale, where it’s heavily discounted.”
This year, Mary Arnold Toys implemented a weekly play day, in which it highlights a new toy each week and gives parents and kids the opportunity to explore the product. Ishayik asks manufacturers for demo items; many are more than willing to send one. “They know that a ‘try me’ toy will lead to employee training and more customer exposure to the product, which leads to higher sales,” she said.
Kazoo Toys has a table dedicated to building where it has Legos, Magna-Tiles, Magformers, Tegu, Squigz and Brackitz. Another table has an assembled Brio trainset for kids to play with. It also has an assortment of hand puzzles like Rubiks and Project Genius puzzles behind the counter that customers can try. “Many manufacturers will throw in a sample or sell one at a reduced cost, so you can keep it available for consumers,” he said.
For items in which the store didn’t receive any demos, Meeks will often open packages and display them behind the counter. “That way, the customer can see the item and we can show them how it works, but we can still keep the item protected and thus available for sale,” she said. “We rarely leave demos out on the sales floor, rather we’ll pull them out as needed to close the sale.”