Source: Wonder Works/the Toy Book

Wonder Works owner and founder Christine Osborne chatted with the Toy Book about pandemic business strategies, the retailer’s top items for 2020, and more.

The Toy Book: What new business strategies did you implement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Which ones do you think will stick?
Christine Osborne: Those who embraced change and persevered found themselves on a new track for business growth. Growth and change was seen in every sector of our business, from managing operating expenses, staffing, ordering, store layout, store hours, store protocols, marketing strategies, and methods of servicing our customers.

It began with alternative methods of delivering product information to our customer base. During the first lockdown, Wonder Works quickly hired H3 Photography with its Virtual Matterport Platform/Cart 360 to create a virtual retail store for our customers to shop. Custom Easter basket bundle options were added on our website, and our staff teamed up to package and provided shipping, free home delivery, and curbside pickup. We utilized the downtime to create a more efficient website and implemented a faster POS system in our stores.

Safety for customers and staff were made a priority. Sanitization Stations were created with the help of Crazy Aaron’s business pivot to sanitization supplies. Safety and sanitization protocols for staff and customers were implemented. Schedules and staff teams were altered to provide additional protection.

Thanks to TopTrenz, masks with a No. 1 breathability factor for all ages quickly became our top item for 2020 — a necessary product for all families. Finances and operating expenses were reviewed weekly, to prudently keep the business surviving. Vendors and credit card companies graciously worked with extending payments out until stores were reopened.

The work at times tripled, however, the business of “providing magic to our community” continued and our employees kept their jobs. Will these strategies remain? It got us back to basics, and the basics are always a great place to start.

TB: What are your predictions for the state of toy retail in 2021?
CO: Currently, the amount of new products on the market are astounding. However, terms and margins are shrinking. It can be offset with the implementation of clever buying and marketing strategies. Buying shows continue to be postponed or done virtually. Customers are keenly aware of the importance of local businesses surviving this pandemic, and the outpouring of support in the fourth quarter was simply heartwarming and will continue. The vaccine and federal government’s second round of PPP grants have come at the perfect time to infuse energy and optimism for a brighter tomorrow. Those who survived 2020 are seasoned to shape the future of the toy industry.

This State of the Industry Q&A response was originally published in the February 2021 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!