Easy Ways to Market and Merchandise Summer Toys to Consumers

by AMY OPHEIMfreelance marketing consultant

They may not be quite on par with the holidays, but summer toy sales can make a meaningful contribution to your bottom line, too. With a little forethought and planning, you can easily inspire big-time summer sales and it all starts with thinking like a parent.

While parents purchase holiday toys with the intention of surprising and delighting the kids on their shopping lists, many make summer purchases with a different goal in mind. Whether you’re a manufacturer or a retailer, you can tap into summer sales by understanding that parents have some unique problems in the summer that you can help solve.

SUMMER BOREDOM

Who hasn’t heard “I’m bored” three days into summer break? Promote summer boredom-buster products — including solo games, craft kits, and outdoor activities — via in-store merchandising and signage, social media campaigns, and special events. After all, what busts boredom better than spending the day playing in the local toy store? You might even change your theme weekly: “Bust Summer Boredom with … Craft Kits!” one week, or “Bust Summer Boredom with … Games!” the next. Curate a compelling set of products for each theme, and be ready to talk about the features, benefits, and long-lasting, summer boredom-busting abilities of each.

PLUG-IN PARALYSES

Many kids would be happy to fill the summer hours texting, watching YouTube, or playing Roblox, Fortnite, or The Sims — but, many parents don’t love this. As it is, kids younger than age 10 spend almost 55 days in front of a screen each year, according to a survey conducted by Parents Magazine and insurance company Asurion in November. You can promote your non-electronic offerings as a means to get kids to unplug and engage with friends and family, have some real-life fun, and maybe even learn a little something. Retailers should consider coordinating a weekly, in-store game day or Toy Test Tuesday to get kids off the couch and into your store trying out your favorite non-electronic offerings. Manufacturers should consider social media posts, blog posts, and newsletters that offer ideas and products that encourage unplugged play at home.

SUMMER SLIDE

Speaking of learning, many parents are concerned about the summer slide. Kids lose roughly 2.5 months’ worth of reading and math skills over the summer, which can add up to two years of learning lost by the time kids reach middle school. Parents are looking to put a stop to the slide, and they’re willing to spend to prevent it. Toys and games that slip in some academic practice or encourage and reward curiosity are an easy sell during the summer. Think science kits, handheld math quizzes, and even strategy games. Your buyers are familiar with the term “summer slide,” so go ahead and use it. Send weekly tips to stop the summer slide, create a section in your store filled with educational products, and feature both on your social channels.

TRAVEL TROUBLES

Keeping kids entertained on long drives, flights, and hotel nights is another summertime pain point for parents. Portable products, such as magnetic travel games, art sets, sticker books, and dress-up dolls, are great for summer travel. Why not offer a Travel Trouble Giveaway at the start of summer, filled with toys and games perfect for families on the go? You can promote one product per week, share reviews from parents who’ve brought it on vacation, ask for photos of parents’ favorite travel toys, or create a hashtag specific to your store or brand, such as #EndTravelTroublesWithTomsToys.

SEDENTARY SUMMER

Some kids are natural movers and shakers. From Slip ‘n Slides and swimming pools to scooters and rope swings, you wouldn’t be able to get these active kids to sit still in the summer if you tried — others, not so much. Many parents worry that kids aren’t getting enough exercise without school recess and PE class. You can promote fun outdoor play products and vehicles to help inspire kids to get up and moving. Try hosting a monthly challenge in store or online, in which kids track their movement minutes in exchange for a prize. Again, be sure to ask for images to share on social media using a custom hashtag you create just for your brand or store.

It’s not too late to kick off a short-lead summer marketing campaign. Give some thought to the tools at your disposal — whether you send emails, post on social media, create merchandised sections with signage, or host special events. Such ideas can address parents’ concerns, including that their kids have fun — which is a great way to move product in the summer.

Amy Opheim has more than 20 years of experience creating copy and content that compels consumers into action. She has served as director of marketing for several mid-sized toy companies and worked with dozens of manufacturers as a consultant, from start-ups to high-profile brands. Learn more at linkedin.com/in/amy-opheim.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 issue of the Toy Book.