By Kathryn Van Druff
Shopping for the little ones in your life continues to delight shoppers of all ages. Whether it’s a new teddy bear or an activity kit, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles seem to enjoy the contagious smiles and squeals of joy emanating from boys and girls receiving a new toy.
Plush animals, games, and craft kits all seem to sell at toy stores as well as pharmacies and hardware stores. Here are tips from five different stores that know their customers and ensure their stores’ stock matches their needs.
The Dancing Weasel Toy Store, a mother-daughter owned business in Eugene, Ore., carries board games and plush animals along with unusual craft kits like Chinese brush painting, silk scarf kits, and paper beads. Owners Danita Reynolds and her daughter Aya Lyddon ensure their selection of cooperative board games at the 1,000-square-foot store remains stocked. “Cooperative games are where everyone works together to get to the end,” Reynolds explained. “Either everyone wins together, or everyone loses together.”
She cited Peaceable Kingdom as the maker of many of their top sellers in games, such as the Hoot Owl Hoot! board game. One of her top tips for selling more games is to have examples or demos out for customers to look at and test.
At Oswald’s Pharmacy in Naperville, Ill., the store features around 24 feet of board games, a wide selection of craft kits, and a plethora of plush animals just waiting to find new homes. Popular plush include the TY brand, Squishamals pillow-type animals, Wild Republic, and Ganz, not to mention the life-sized plush animals from Melissa & Doug—a sea turtle, flamingo, dog, and penguin.
Once per month the pharmacy puts out a coupon to allow customers to score a great deal on a new toy. Brand-specific coupons also emerge from time to time, where the manufacturer shares a cut of the discount’s lower customer cost with the store.
“We have a coupon that goes out in local money mailers for 20 percent off any toy item, a singular toy purchase, whatever their most expensive item is that they purchase,” said Manager Alecia Eckerle. “Also, our large selection of toys allows people to really have some choice.”
The best-selling craft kits include the Fashion Angels, Creativity for Kids (by Faber-Castell), Toysmith, and Melissa & Doug lines. Science kits, paint a dinosaur, and robot-building kits also tend to be popular.
“We’re kind of like a jack-of-all-trades place,” said Eckerle of the 4,800-plus-square-foot shop. “We do a lot of things.”
A small, independent pharmacy set in between two reservoirs in Northern Jersey, the Clinton Pharmacy in Clinton, N.J., stocks a modest selection of toys and children’s gifts to satisfy its customers’ needs. While it doesn’t carry craft kits, the shop does have some games and other toys.
“We do carry a little bit of plush, but it doesn’t move,” said Lee-Anne Ezawa, retail manager. “We have some old timey stuff—like Wooly Willy, those little slate things that you write on and pull up clear part and it erases it. …Really simply, grandparents tend to buy those for their grandchildren; that is our market.”
“There is something very weird that I have a hard time keeping in stock,” she adds. “It’s called ‘Bug in the Nut’. It’s a little wooden thing with a hinge on it; you open it up and the legs move. Believe it or not, as far as those things go, that is the big seller. I’ve gone through dozens and dozens. Who knew!”
In the city of brotherly love, Tildie’s Toy Box brings a wide array of games, crafts, plush, and more to Philadelphia, Pa., promoting with social media and staff recommendations. Owner/Buyer Michelle Gillen-Doobrajh effortlessly listed popular sellers in her shop in all categories, particularly the Jellycat plush line and cooperative games like Hoot Owl Hoot! by Peaceable Kingdom, Tenzi by Karma Games, and Keekee the Rocking Monkey by Blue Orange Games. The shop also offers a vast assortment of craft kits like the 3D Colorables by Ooly, eeBoo scratch papers for a unique take on drawing, and the I Heart Mermaids kit by Ann Williams, featuring six different crafts for kids to enjoy on demand.
“Probably our most popular craft kit is the comic book kit from Kid Made Modern,” said Gillen-Doobrajh. “We are a gender-neutral toy store, so it’s always great for us because often people will say they aren’t geared toward crafts for boys, but the comic book kit is always a hit for boys and girls with the super hero theme. Basically, you are making a comic book; it comes with stamps and markers and a blank comic book. You get to decorate it and create your own story.”
At Kefauver True Value Lumber Co. in Forest Hill, Md., the gift section carries item across many price points to delight young shoppers or special recipients. Diane Waltimyer, housewares and giftware buyer, noted that plush items become more popular this time of year as we head into the wintertime. The store carries rag dolls and stuffed bears, plush dogs, and stuffed snowmen in time for the holidays. Shoppers may find some games and craft kits in the toy section, but Trail of Painted Ponies figurines, toy tractors, and John Deere toys tend to be the bigger sellers, not to mention the Radio Flyer wagons, sleds, and wheelbarrows.
“We have no craft kits at the moment, but we have had them,” Waltimyer said, adding that they will carry kits for Boy Scouts for their soapbox cars.
She explained that the store buys more craft kits come the first of December each year. A lot of planning goes into play in preparation of Kefauver’s annual open house featuring a special guest—Santa!
“We let the kids do the crafts and then they can take more home. That way they get to interact and experience that kind of thing. A lot of times we just make up the crafts and use things we have here like jar lids and make a picture frame with a mason jar lid. They can make one here for free and then they can buy supplies to make more for their tree. They know what to do and we have the supplies. The kids love it and we have a big turnout for that. We’re a small store as far as Lowes or whatever; we’re just a little country lumber hardware company and we get a big turnout. They look forward to it all year.”