CHATTING WITH THE INDUSTRY We offer personalized services, such as free gift-wrap, a birthday present registry to combat duplicate gifts, and a cadre of welltrained, happy, friendly, and helpful staff. Right now, we only offer in-store or curbside pickup, but hope to extend limited delivery options in the future. We also have a generous return policy. Since we’re local, I know my customers and they know me. I care about establishing and maintaining good, trustworthy relationships. Every sale for every customer counts.
Twitter feed, and we encourage customers to Like us on Facebook and occasionally invite them to post pictures and videos on our page.
Kienzle: It’s hard! We try to tap into the shop local movement and feel lucky that we have a community that understands the importance of doing so. We also try to provide services that make our customers feel special.
How do you prepare for the holidays to ensure you’ll have the right merchandise mix to meet your customers’ needs? Osborne: Reports are a strong indicator. They share profit and quantity information on products. Staff feedback and walk arounds are also necessary. Prior to the ASTRA show, we have a full management item review
How do you engage customers online to drive in-store sales? Clark: I use last-minute social media blasts through Hootsuite to generate interest for products or themes on slow days. Also, having a website directly tied to my POS allows for accurate inventory availability. This means Mom can score that toy and she knows it will be waiting for her in the store and paid for, nearly immediately, with pretty wrapping ready to go. Osborne: We use Facebook and Instagram to share promotions in the store. We also use social media to promote new products and musthave items. We post up to five times a day, but never more. Heartfelt posts, such as cute photos of children in the store, national stories that are sweet or funny, and child-related posts have higher reach rates. CRM systems provide analytical data that is specifically targeted to set marketing strategies that will optimize your customer to come into your store and purchase or go to your online store to purchase. They will share who to target, what to target them with, and what response to look for. Clower: This is an area in which we need to improve. We occasionally do Facebook ads, but have not been able to fully assess the effectiveness of those ads. We maintain a Facebook page, tie the Facebook posts to a
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Kienzle: To be honest, we don’t do it well enough. We need to tap into monetizing the social media platforms a bit more. I’d love to be able to capture the sale at the moment they’re excited about what they’re seeing, instead of waiting for them to come into the store.
Brown: That’s something I’m still working on perfecting. It feels like customers are shopping later each year, and we don’t have a ton of space for back stock. I’ve been trying to place future ship orders and tweaking them as needed. We also keep a notebook of customer requests up front and I go through that constantly. I also love to try some new items during the holidays that I might have been on the fence about earlier in the year. It’s an easy way to see if it’s a winner or a dog very quickly. January sales have been impacted for the better by having more merchandise available after the holidays. We used to go very lean and wait for [North American International] Toy Fair to restock. Now I have a few restock orders ready for the end of December, or I just go heavier on a few items I anticipate vendors might be low on. Clark: Attending ASTRA’s Marketplace is paramount to knowing the most desirable fourth quarter products. It allows me to make face-to-face orders with vendors or with my rep at my side so I can guarantee fulfillment when I need it. This year, however, I have prepared by upgrading my store with some minimalist, but generously endowed, storage armoires that blend into our décor. Last year’s experience taught me to order soon, order enough, and ship early.
Giggle Monkey Toys, Dahlonega, Ga.
meeting. We review reports, go through every item carried that year, and look at trending items and what customers are asking for. Plans for staggered holiday orders and marketing/holiday promotion begin. Kienzle: We start now! I try to identify a handful of key items—things I want to promote to local publications and TV as “the” thing for the holidays—and then try to ensure that we are trained on these items and we have sufficient inventory. I also work in advance to plan out a social media strategy to go along with this. Besides these key items, I ensure that we have the classics on order/in stock.
Overall toy industry sales were up approximately 7 percent last year. What are your expectations for this year? Folkmanis: Our company growth is in line with what the industry reported. We expect to meet and probably exceed this rate of growth this year based on the prosperity of the economy, the recent induction of the “puppet” into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and the surprises that our brand has planned for the fourth quarter. Fisher: Our expectations for sales this year are substantially higher. Our products, pricing, and retailer support across the board are enabling us to grow our business substantially.
Many of us are traveling to Denver for the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA’s) Marketplace & Academy trade show, and in...