Nick Tarzia, Owner, Awesome Toys and Gifts, Westport and Stamford, CT, discusses the latest trends, industry happenings, and how business strategies are evolving in the specialty toy market.

The Toy Book: How have you done business differently since stay-at-home orders were put into place across most of the U.S.?
Nick Tarzia: I have advertised our website and telephone number offering curbside pick-up, free same-day delivery, and more.

TB: What do you think the short- and long-term impacts of the global coronavirus pandemic on the toy industry will be?
NT: The short-term impact for independent retailers is a rough road if they do not evolve their service offerings to their local community. For larger players, it has been a boost in sales because of the services they provide, such as a wide range of product, online ordering, and free delivery.

TB: With ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy canceled this year, how do you plan to connect with manufacturers?
NT: Through the manufacturers’ representatives and the alternative offerings that ASTRA is planning to compensate for the lack of having the face-to-face show.

TB: What are your predictions for the state of toy retail in 2020?
NT: Overall, sales in toys will show a huge increase due to children not going to camp and families staying closer to home. Since this will be the opposite swing of what we saw last year in travel, people will be looking to enjoy family time at home and that means games and toys to enjoy with each other.

TB: What major toy trends are you seeing this year?
NT: During the cooler months, puzzles and board games were huge. I venture to guess that outdoor entertainment type toys will show a large year-over-year growth.

TB: How important is it for toy companies to make an effort to be more eco-friendly?
NT: I think that the future generations will be paying more and more attention to sustainability of the planet and therefore will create a habit and take this under consideration when they make purchases of any kind, including toys.

TB: Which products or categories do you expect to drive sales this year? How do your expectations compare to last year’s results?
NT: I believe outdoor activities and games will be the toys of choice this year, as it will be the response to being quarantined for so long.

TB: Do you take advantage of ASTRA member programs? If so, what do you find most beneficial?
NT: Education is one of the most valuable things ASTRA has to offer. The sharing of ideas both in print and through community are paramount in the success of ASTRA.

TB: What ways have you been getting the word out to consumers that your store is still open?
NT: We advertise locally through Instagram, emails, and Facebook. Different online community groups have been a great help.

TB: What are the different ways in which you are still getting products to consumers in your community?
NT: We are participating in same-day curbside pickup and free local delivery.

TB: How has your digital media strategy shifted now that more consumers are buying online or choosing curbside pickup options?
NT: We use direct-to-consumer marketing, such as Instagram, local digital eboards, and town listings of local businesses open in the area.

TB: How do you plan on preparing for the holiday season?
NT: I plan to have a robust online presence and a well-run delivery service.

TB: What suggestions would you give to manufacturers to make it as easy as possible for you to merchandise their products?
NT: Utilize distributers who can bundle their product with other brands so the independent retailers can spread their dollars wider and possibly utilize the distributors for drop-shipping directly to the customer. By utilizing distributors, the cost of getting a sampling of your products on the limited shelf space is greatly reduced for the retailer, and the chances to get on the shelf grow tremendously for the manufacturer.

TB: What advice would you give to other specialty retailers that are still open during this time?
NT: Don’t give up. Seize the opportunities that come your way and spoil your local customers. Out-Amazon,
Amazon. Evolve. 

This Chatting with the Industry Q&A response originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of the Toy Book. Click here to read more!