As Toys ‘R’ Us shuts its doors across the U.S., smaller retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on the in-store customer service and expertise they offer.
Independent toy stores, which often struggled to compete with Toys ‘R’ Us in terms of price and selection, can benefit by emphasizing a personalized shopping experience and comfortable environment, CNN Money reports.
Toys ‘R’ Us announced last week it plans to close all 735 of its U.S. stores. The company’s Canadian operations also filed for bankruptcy, but a group of investors affiliated with MGA Entertainment has made an offer to buy Toys ‘R’ Us in Canada, L.A. Biz reports. That deal could also keep about 200 top-performing U.S. stores open, per L.A. Biz.
“Parents can talk to our staff. We familiarize ourselves with the products. We play all the games,” Michelle Sahr, owner of Off the Wagon Shop in Kent, Ohio, told CNN Money. Acknowledging that she can’t always offer the lowest price, Sahr noted, “But we can answer questions, open the box and show you and the kids the toys.”
Sharon DiMinico, founder and CEO of Learning Express Toys, which has 120 franchised locations, succeeds with a selection of novelty toys not available in larger stores, per CNN Money. Popular items from Hasbro and Mattel would be cheaper from Amazon or Walmart anyway, she told CNN Money.
“We have a few licenses but we don’t chase everything that’s being advertised on TV,” DiMinico said. “We have been able to withstand the growth of Amazon and Walmart. We’ve coexisted with Toys ‘R’ Us for 30 years. I like to think of us as an intelligent alternative in the toy business.”
The toy industry could lose some impulse purchases, Stephanie Wissink, managing director and consumer products analyst at Jeffries, told The Chicago Tribune. But 85 percent to 90 percent of Toys ‘R’ Us sales came from shoppers looking for specific items, she said.
Some retailers worry that without Toys ‘R’ Us, manufacturers could raise prices or limit product selection available to stores, pushing customers online, The Chicago Tribune reports. Peggy Sebert, owner of Becky & Me Toys in Evanston, Ill., said stores in the area already have to pool orders and refer customers to another store if an item is out of stock.
“We don’t want our competitors to go either, because if people don’t know there’s a good bunch of stores around, I fear the answer will be more online (shopping),” Sebert told The Chicago Tribune.
Ann Kienzle, owner of *play, a toy store in Chicago, told CNN Money that she relies on more than just toy selection to keep sales coming.
“We know your family and what the kids in the neighborhood are into right now,” Kienzle said, per CNN Money. “We also have events three days a week, things like story time and music jam. We want to make this an experience, and not an errand.”