Source: stock.adobe.com/The Toy Book

Specialty retailers across the country‭ ‬offer so many individualized options for the families that shop at their stores‭. ‬Gift wrapping‭, ‬knowing what works for kids at different stages of their development‭, ‬and working one-on-one with the parents and other caregivers to find the right gift are just a few of the everyday things that ASTRA member retailers do for their customers‭. ‬But when the holiday season rolls around‭, ‬they dial up the customization and individualization a few more notches‭, ‬knowing that the competition gets fierce‭. ‬

Perfectly timed with the holiday shopping season‭, ‬ASTRA’s annual Neighborhood Toy Store Day is becoming Neighborhood Toy Store Month‭. ‬Every Saturday in November‭, ‬participating retailers nationwide will focus on a specific theme and offer in-store giveaways and hands-on activities to encourage families to engage‭ ‬and connect with their local stores and communities‭. ‬These stores will provide so many people with truly magical holiday experiences‭. ‬

Ahead of this awesome promotion‭, ‬we asked two of our retailers what specific plans they are looking to put into action to connect with their customers during the upcoming fourth quarter‭. ‬

Source: Kidstop Toys & Books

KATE TANNER‭ ‬•‭ ‬KIDSTOP TOYS‭ ‬AND BOOKS‭ ‬•‭ ‬SCOTTSDALE‭, ‬AZ

“I am considering doing‭ ‬‘private shops’‭ ‬with Santa’s helpers‭. ‬Five times a week‭, ‬five families will get a private shopping experience with one of our toy experts either before opening or at closing‭. ‬To be in a toy store when the lights are being turned on is so cool‭. ‬It’s almost like you are a very special friend that gets to be in the store on your own‭!  ‬It happened last summer one morning and it was so magical‭. ‬The parents spent entirely too much money‭, ‬but they said the experience was priceless‭. ‬We are also going to offer gift registries online during this time‭, ‬so kids can share their lists with Santa and relatives‭.‬”

Kate Tanner | Source: Kidstop Toys & Books

Tanner is also working with local restaurants in Scottsdale to make Kidstop’s holiday catalog available via a QR code as an interesting pop-up piece to place on tables‭, ‬which will keep kids entertained while patrons are waiting for their food‭.‬

BRICE ELVINGTON‭ ‬•‭ ‬THE TOY SHOP‭ ‬FLORENCE‭ ‬•‭ ‬FLORENCE‭, ‬SC

“We are building an entirely new store that is designed to be an experience instead of just a retail store that has outgrown its‭ ‬space‭. ‬It will be more than twice the size of our current store‭, ‬and we are cutting 75%‭ ‬of the lines we carry so that when we open‭ [Editor’s Note: The new store opened just before press time] ‬we will only be featuring the lines that are truly the best for specialty‭. ‬By cutting the lines to those that are best for us‭, ‬we feel those manufacturers will partner with us to not just sell their products‭, ‬but to also allow customers to experience them with in-store demos‭, ‬play day and craft kits‭, ‬giveaways‭, ‬large signage‭, ‬etc‭.”

“We want customers to not just shop‭, ‬but to spend time hanging out in the store or letting it serve as a meeting place for friends to come play together‭, ‬too‭. ‬We will create an event room designed to host in-store events that will be open to the public‭. ‬We also want to use the profits we make in the store to help other families in our community‭. ‬Our long-term vision is to use our store‭, ‬social media channels‭, ‬and profits to make the lives of children better by encouraging the companies behind the lines we carry to also support children in their communities if any of our marketing and/or ideas that we come up with help lead to better sales‭.‬”

‘TIS THE SEASON TO MAKE MEMORIES

Both of these specialty toy stores are thinking outside the box to provide their customers with unique in-store experiences they‭ ‬won’t find anywhere else throughout the holiday season‭. ‬And few things say‭ ‬“holiday fun”‭ ‬more than holiday decorations‭. ‬To celebrate all the hard work ASTRA member retail store members put into their holiday efforts‭,‬‭ ‬ASTRA will once again host the Holiday Decorating Contest‭. ‬

RELATED: Connecting Toy Stores Worldwide

We ask our retailers to simply send us pictures of their best 2022‭ ‬holiday window or store displays by Dec‭. ‬10‭, ‬and the top three displays will win a gift card‭. ‬ASTRA will assemble a panel of kids to judge the displays via Zoom‭, ‬because after all‭, ‬no one loves toys more than kids‭! ‬

The panel of kids will judge the windows or in-store displays based on the following criteria‭: ‬Does it catch your eye so that you would stop and look‭? ‬Does it make you want to go inside the store‭? ‬Does it make you smile and get into the holiday spirit‭?‬

So many of us have such vivid memories from our childhood of store windows and displays that captured the true spirit of the holiday season‭. ‬The windows drew us in and the in-store displays left us with a sense of wonder and excitement for the season‭. ‬Great products we may forget‭; ‬great experiences we do not‭. ‬Here’s to all our independent retailers who work hard to make memories that last‭! ‬


This article was originally published in the September 2022 Fall Toy Preview edition of The Toy BookClick here to read the full issue!