Top selling toys and plush at toy stores and children’s and baby shops varies, but display and providing good accessibility to items for customers appears to be a great way to boost sales across the board, according to retailers interviewed for this story.
At Toys Unique in Dallas, Texas, Owner Pam May said her top-sellers in plush are the brands Jellycats, Gund, and Douglas. In other categories, it varies by age. “We run the gamut from ‘tween girls to our infant boutique within the store. In that area, a real standout is anything that’s made by Fat Brain. They are very innovative and high quality, very eye-appealing. We always have a lot of our product out for the kids to play with. They just gravitate to this brand. And if parents see the kids playing with those toys for 30 minutes, they’re going to buy it.” She stressed that “Every year it seems that company just outdoes itself in new products.”
Also popular: outdoor toys. “We well a lot of games that kids can play in the backyard. We also do very well with Barbie, LEGO, and puzzle items. Trending right now are a lot of science and STEM products, toys where science, tech, and engineering areas are involved. Kids find a lot of joy in doing those kinds of projects outside of school where they are still learning.”
To sell more plush and toys, May noted that “a lot of our sales have to do with keeping things accessible to try out. We also do social media – Facebook and Instagram. We post our new items on there, which draws people into the store. In the shop, we do displays primarily by category.” May described her store’s demographic as young families, grandparents, and children themselves. Accessibility to trying items is the key way for the 4,000-square-foot store to reach all these shoppers.
In Ketchikan, Alaska, Pam Gibson co-manages Silly Munchkins with her daughter, owner Brenda Jorgens. Gibson said, “Douglas plush is appealing for all ages, and for older kids, our Squishables line is very popular.” She described the line as large, round, ball-type animals. “Right now, we have a giant pineapple and an octopus that do well; some of our best sellers are of course dogs, but we also do well with sea life creatures such as mermaids, narwhals, and orcas.” Along with those plush items, best-sellers include toys from the lines Melissa and Doug and LEGO, arts and crafts items, and science-related toys.
One unique item is also a strong draw for customers. “We carry Schleick figures such as sea creatures, dinosaurs, farm animals, and unicorns. They are hand painted and come from a German company,” Gibson said. “They’re very high quality. Children play with them; I have also sold some to adults, who make dioramas with them. They’re a very creative toy.”
According to Gibson, the best way to sell more plush and toys is through display in a variety of locations within the store. “We also put new items up on Facebook, particularly new books, science items, and puzzles, which we have a nice line of. We also do things such as participating in a Battle of Books, where kids compete against each other at school to read books, and we post that on Facebook, too.”
She described the store’s demographic as varied. “We have grandparents, young adults, teens who come in during sports events. We try to keep a wide variety of items for all ages which helps us to reach everyone.” The 3,000-square-foot store sells children’s clothing as well as toys, and some electronics items, such as cell phones, chargers, and streaming kits. That mix further broadens the shop’s appeal.
Virginia Hoyt owns Just Imagine, in Ridgecrest, Calif., where the unusual Folkmanis puppets are a large seller for the 1,200-square-foot toy shop. “They are marvelous quality, very imaginative. Everyone wants to touch them, and once they do, and play with them, they are amazed at all the things they can do besides just opening and shutting their mouths. For example, the chameleon puppet allows you to manipulate the eyes, they can even look behind; one eye can look independently of the other one. You can make its tongue flick in and out. They are exceptional and really beautiful.” Also popular are games for young adults such as Star Wars, or Cards Against Humanity. “We sell hobby supplies and we hold a games workshop, as well as carrying toys and plush. We do quite a bit of business with those as well. Puzzles are great because they are things that people can do together as a family.” Hoyt’s top-selling push is a Melissa and Doug brand black lab puppy, and she counts the Folkmanis puppets as a top plush seller, too. “They are very soft fabric and can be used for decorating in your room. I gave a cat to my daughter. It sleeps on the sofa and looks like a real cat,” she attests.
For Hoyt, selling more toys and plush is all about customer interaction. “We do have a Facebook and post there, but I think people want to be in the store. We have people come up and thank us for being here. This is the kind of store you can come in and actually touch things, you can talk to people who know how to play a game or manipulate a toy. It is like a step backwards in time, and older people particularly like it.”
The store’s main demographic is a mix of young families and young adults. “We reach them all by having a diverse selection of merchandise. Everything you sell goes seasonally really, and one thing will sell during a slow session for another one, which we noticed 30 years ago when we first opened. Having many different types of items is important.”
Also in California, at Yolk in the trendy Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, Store Manager Alex Condo said Jellycat is a big plush seller, as is Blah Blah. “They’re popular because they are soft and high quality, also with Jellycat, you can have pretty much any type of animal or even a figure such as rainbow as well as cute bunnies and dragons.” She noted, “Besides plush, we do well with Plan Toys, which run from babies up to age 6 or 7. They’re sustainable, really well-made, and the line offers great handmade baby toys such as wooden xylophones and puppies you can pull on a string.”
To sell more plush and toys, the shop uses social media; in the store the items are displayed with the help of a merchandiser who doesn’t hesitate to mix and match and create an overall theme for the store. Demographics? “Families are our main demographic, as well as people who come in looking for presents for everything from a baby shower to a kid’s birthday or something for an adult as well as the children. I think we reach all our shoppers by having a merchandise mix that’s handmade, organic, and good quality – from toys to clothes. We carry items that feel special, not just something you can find anywhere.” She added that “We also offer free gift wrapping, so if someone is coming in for a gift they can be all set, out the door and on their way to an event in no time.” The shop, which recently moved within the neighborhood, finds its unique mix both draws regular customers who’ve visited for 15 years, as well as hyper-local shoppers who have discovered them in their new spot.
Located in Fairbanks, Alaska, The Toy Quest focuses on classic, timeless toys rather than trendy items, Owner Shane Powers explained. “We’ve found that things like fidget spinners just get thrown away. So, what we carry are not the barn burner items, but the consistent long-term favorites. Educational items do very well here; if there is a way for kids to learn while they play, parents feel good about that. Science kits do well for us because the kids can put them together and learn from them. Kids like games, and we have learning games where they have to do a lot of math. They don’t realize they are doing things like addition or multiplication, they are just playing, and learning while they play.” As to plush items, Powers laughed that “Even though we are 400 miles from the nearest ocean, marine life items do surprisingly well. No one else carries those items, we are the only people within miles selling sharks and octopi and things like that. Everyone has a moose or a bear.”
To improve sales for any of his toys, Powers, who took over the 4,200-square-foot shop from his in-laws two years ago, said social media is new for the store and has had a big impact. “It’s a big generational shift. Grandparents know of us because the store has been here since 1986, and through TV commercials; younger parents who’ve recently moved here are where social media, where just upping our Facebook posts, really helps.” Also helpful for the shop, he said is “working with employees and training them about the games and other toys we have; making an impact in their knowledge improves their communication with our customers.”
Toys available at the store are for ages from infants to the 12-to-13 age group. Powers said his demographic falls into two main categories, young mothers in their mid-20s to 40s, and grandmothers. His traditionally appealing toys appeal to them all.