Learning Express.sharonThe Toy Book (TTB): How are Learning Express retailers engaging consumers in-store to drive sales?

Sharon DiMinico (SD): Every month, our stores publish a full calendar of events to draw people into the store. We engage, we entertain, and we have product demonstrations. We also offer classes, costumed character appearances, and featured guests (silhouette artists, musicians, authors, etc.). We learned early on that customer-centric services and the “wow” factor would be the only way to compete with buying toys online from the comfort of your home.

In addition, we recognize that having a strong team is essential to long-term success, so our owners are spending more time training and developing their staff. They are encouraged to take more responsibility in all areas of the business. Having the right product, at the right time, in the right amount, at the right price is another key to driving sales. Lastly, giving your customers unexpected, over-the-top service, as well as dramatic merchandising and free gift-wrap, are also important elements of continued growth.

TTB: How can specialty retailers compete with mass retail in 2015?

SD: Shopping a specialty retailer is a much better experience than walking the aisles of a big-box store. Specialty retailers have people who offer a warm greeting, give advice, and answer questions. They have a vested interested in the success of their business so they make sure their customers are happy and 100-percent satisfied with their selection.

Although a few of our stores do a big business with Hasbro and Mattel, for the most part we try to support smaller manufacturers whose focus is primarily specialty. There is also the advantage of placing reorders up until the week before Christmas.

We also participate in all of the shop local promotions that happen throughout the holiday season.