Learning Express Toys Introduces New Corporate Store and Play Center Concept

LearningExpresslogoLearning Express Inc. will open a flagship Learning Express Toys location, the first corporate-owned store since 1995, in the redeveloped Bedford Marketplace in Massachusetts in September. Adjacent to the toy store, Learning Express is introducing Learning Express Play, an activity center and play museum for kids ages 6 months through 8 years. [Read more...]

Q&A with Sharon DiMinico, Founder and CEO, Learning Express

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. [Read more...]

Learning Express Expands with New Pop-Up Stores

Learning Express has opened four new pop-up toy store locations in time for this year’s holiday season. All of the Learning Express temporary holiday stores are owned and operated by existing franchisees. The new Learning Express holiday stores are located in: Wesley Chapel, Fla. (The Shoppes at New Tampa); Hinsdale, Ill. (36 E. Hinsdale Ave.); Garland, Tex. (The Firewheel Center); and Burlington, Mass. (The Burlington Mall).

Pretty Ugly Releases Exclusive Uglydoll at Learning Express

Pretty Ugly, LLC has released a limited edition Uglydoll character that is available exclusively at Learning Express stores nationwide, while supplies last. The Learning Express Nandy Bear is bright blue with pale pink eyes, and is available in classic, two-foot oversized, and keychain miniature sizes.

As with other Uglydoll characters, Nandy Bear comes with a special story:

“OK, so you may have Nandy Bear all figured out but there’s still a lot about you [that] Nandy has to learn! No time to waste! Hey, that’s why they call it Learning Express. This special edition of Nandy Bear was created special for Learning Express… but he was made for you. And you are a limited edition of one. OK, so now that everyone is special and everything, let’s go have some fun already.”

To find a Learning Express store, visit www.learningexpress.com.

Learning Express Plans to Open Up to 20 New Stores

After the success of opening 14 new locations and 12 temporary “pop-up” stores for the holiday season (five of which remain open with short-term leases), Learning Express plans to open 17-20 new toy store franchises in 2010. Exact locations have yet to be decided and the company is actively seeking additional applicants.

Demographic studies, says the company, indicate that Learning Express stores would thrive in locations throughout Long Island, NY. The areas include Glen Cove, Port Washington, and Great Neck on the North Shore; Rockville Centre, Garden City, and the Five Towns, Merrick and Long Beach on the South Shore; Hempstead, Commack, and Woodbury in central Long Island; and towns such East Hampton, South Hampton, and Bridge Hampton on the eastern tip.

Learning Express Convention Toys to be Donated to Nashville Foundation

Learning Express has picked the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to be the recipient of donated toys from the Learning Express Annual Convention. Every year, many of the brand new toys featured in the vendor booths at the show are donated to a local cause at the end of the convention.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee will deliver the toys to children at nonprofit early childhood education centers in the Nashville area. Those centers serve approximately 1,522 children, from infant to pre-teen, at 23 sites.

The Learning Express Annual Convention will be held June 27-30 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. Attendees will include the Learning Express corporate staff, the owners of more than 140 Learning Express toy stores, and more than 100 of the world’s top toy vendors. Vendors attend by invitation only.

The Hot New Toy: Rubber Bands?

Learning Express, a franchise of more than 140 independently owned and operated specialty toy stores, has noticed that a simple product is becoming a hot trend for kids: collectible rubber bands. “We have a storeowner in North Carolina who has sold over 25,000 packs of rubber bands since January 1 of this year,” said Rob Kracinovich, the corporate buyer for the novelty category at the company, in a press release.

The rubber bands are a playful version of the wristband trend that was made popular by the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s Livestrong silicon bracelets. The bands (such as Toysmith’s shown above) are shaped as objects such as turtles, elephants, ostriches, cats, and pigs, and when stretched out can be worn as colorful bracelets, anklets, or hair-ties. When they aren’t being worn the rubber bands spring back to their original shapes.

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