Is There Life After Toys-R-Us?
Since my last post (”Were You a Toys-R-Us Kid?” on March 17th) a lot has happened in the toy world: Toys-R-Us started liquidation sales at all stores, TRU closed their online store, and some have even started efforts to try to save TRU. So, while none of us can say for sure where the toy industry is headed, here is a certainty: independent toy stores around the country, including Monkey Fish Toys, are more crucial to the toy industry now, and, more importantly, to helping our kids develop their creativity, sense of wonder and ability to have fun!
Let’s give some context to how important indie toy stores are:
Fantastic indie toy stores exist in almost every corner of the US - in fact, ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association) has over 1,800 member stores. Further, the US has an estimated 4,000+ toy, game & hobby shops - using a low average of 10 employees per store, this means the indie toy business employs 40,000+ people. Think about this: if just a fraction of TRU customers would give indie toy stores a try, the industry could make huge inroads in helping many of the 30,000+ TRU employees displaced by their closing! For example, Monkey Fish Toys currently employs 4 full-time and 9 part-time Team Members - and we’d love to be able to hire more!
With 4,000+ locations around the country, you can likely find a cool indie toy store! I travel often and have found great toy stores in every city I travel to... Henry Bear’s Park in the Boston area, The Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City, Wonder Works Toys in the Charleston area, just to name a few... If you Google, you shall find!
The Philly area, where we are, is chock full of cool spots: On the Mainline? Try Puns Toys or Lucky Duck... North of Philly, try Jazams, east of Philly, visit The Toy Market. And, of course, if you’re in the Chester County area, you’ve got to visit us, Monkey Fish Toys! In future posts, we’ll deep dive on some of these indie toy gems!
“Customer service” gets a lot of play these days in retail, but truly how authentic is the service you’re getting in your typical store? Is it trained into the employees or is it a natural extension from hiring the right people who truly want to be there helping you? I would strongly argue, and be able to provide many examples to back my premise, the service you get in an indie toy store is going to be good, caring and genuine - nobody works in a toy store to get rich (or owns one to get rich, for that matter!)! At Monkey Fish, as with many indie stores, our Team Members love toys, kids and creating a great experience for you and your family!
A long-standing misconception is smaller indie “boutique” stores overprice the product they sell - while I can’t speak for every indie toy store, I can tell you I have not seen pricing abuse. In fact, at Monkey Fish, we generally price at regular retail and even offer a price-match guarantee up to 20%... Find that cool Melissa & Doug set for 15% less on Amazon? No problem, we’ll honor it and you can take home right then and there!
If you have the notion indie stores won’t have a great selection of toys & games, give us a shot! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many cool things you can find in a smaller footprint. Yes, TRU was cavernous, but how much of that space was used for truly cool toys or games you really wanted? While I’ve tried very hard not to opine on the reasons for the demise of TRU, I will suggest much of their stores were filled with superfluous toy “stuff”, just to ensure they were filled!
Indie toy stores typically can’t afford huge spaces; we need to be very careful in what we offer you, picking the best items, the best value. Ironically, over the last 6 months, we’ve had to skinny down our merchandising of our West Chester store to make the store more “shoppable” for our customers, because we were hearing, often daily, about how our selection was “overwhelming!”!
Give an indie store a try - you’ll likely find that perfect toy or game you’re looking for!
The Toys-R-Us Challenge!
For the reluctant few in the Philly area who feel the world is ending without TRU, we offer you our Toys-R-Us challenge:
For our current fantastic customers, grab that aunt, friend, father, brother or anyone else stuck on TRU and bring them into Monkey Fish Toys! If they join our free Fishbowl Rewards Program, we’ll credit $10 to your account!*
Also, since TRU has stopped accepting their own coupons, bring them to us and we’ll accept them (except rewards certificates)! All we ask is for you to continue to spread the word about us and other great independent toy stores!
In closing, despite what the industry “experts” are saying, the toy industry is not imploding - fun will not only survive, but THRIVE, especially with help from you!
Thanks for listening!
* Small print to make our lawyer buddy happy: New members cannot be of the same household, should be 18+ and should reside in the greater Philly area.