__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 26

CLAUDE ALARY SALES DIRECTOR WREBBIT PUZZLES

MARK CARSON

PRESIDENT & CO-FOUNDER FAT BRAIN TOYS, OMAHA, NE

ANN KIENZLE OWNER *PLAY, CHICAGO, IL

GWEN OTTENBERG OWNER, IMAGINE THAT TOYS, WICHITA, KS

The Toy Book spoke with specialty retailers and manufacturers about the latest trends, industry happenings, and how business strategies are evolving in the specialty toy market. How have you done business differently since stay-at-home orders were put into place across most of the U.S.? Ottenberg: We have been able to remain “open” the entire time. For me, it was simply a shift in focus from my typical storefront to online and curbside options. We utilize many online channels, including Kibo, which fulfills for manufacturer’s direct websites. People were looking to websites like Ceaco/Gamewright that make both puzzles and games. We were able to leverage that and fulfill lots of orders for them! I have also had to really work to get more items listed on my website than ever before. Previously, it was not on the top of the priority list. We pared our staffing down to key employees with the most range of skills and knowledge. They have had to concierge shop for customers and create photo montages to send to customers at the drop of a hat. Since customers are not seeing and touching the products, my staff is having to describe features and benefits like never before. I have had to be even more responsive and timely with customer needs and requests. Customers are messaging day and night, not realizing that an actual person has to respond at that moment because Facebook’s algorithm times you to see how long it takes to respond. We have been messaging with customers on Facebook, Google, Instagram, and through emails and text messages. Carson: Because we do business across a number of different sales channels, we’ve had to orchestrate numerous changes to ensure that we’re still staying relevant to our customers and maintaining a safe environment for our employees. Most of those changes involved shifting resources to other areas

of the company while adhering to CDC guidelines. For example, while our retail stores were closed, we had store staff kitting subscription boxes. And with the slowdown in our wholesale business, our entire wholesale team stepped up to help with the surge in online orders at our distribution center. We feel fortunate that we’ve been able to continue to be a resource to our customers nationwide during these trying times. Kienzle: Like so many businesses, we’ve had to pivot. Initially, we created custom Easter boxes for shipping so that we wouldn’t lose the sales bump we get from the holiday. Then, we set up an appointment calendar online for personal shopping. We also have been selling via FaceTime, social media, and email. We’ve also fast-tracked our pending web shop. Alaray: As early as the third week of March, in conformity with the strict requirements of Quebec Government concerning COVID-19 and for the health and safety of our employees, we have reduced to a strict minimum our business activities. All our efforts were put into the fulfillment of local and international orders exclusively for our customers offering online sales of Wrebbit 3D puzzles, which indirectly renders self-confinement more fun and playful for families during this difficult period. Our employees and management personnel from our creative, marketing, sales, accounting, and customer service departments started working remotely. Hours of business operation have been reduced and the number of production staff has been limited in accordance with our reduction of business activities for each department that remained operational, based on our strict needs, due to these exceptional measures. We put in place very strict rules with respect to

26   THE TOY BOOK | JUNE 2020 | toybook.com

Specialy_Q_A_Bill.indd 26

6/15/20 4:40 PM

Profile for The Toy Book

June 2020  

June 2020  

Profile for toybook