Sunipa Kreuzer, Chief Merchant at CAMP, discusses the big wins for the growing experiential retailer and what’s next in this extended edition of The Toy Book’s 2023 State of the Industry Q&A roundtable. Want more insight from the all-stars of the toy industry? Click here to explore this year’s lineup!

The Toy Book: CAMP opened its ninth location last year. What are the plans for expansion in the year ahead?

Sunipa Kreuzer: To further our national expansion plans, we will open three new stores in the first half of the year in major U.S. metropolitan areas. These new stores will be signature stores with The Magic Door (upwards of 10,000 square feet) and will be anchored with an immersive show.

Kids can explore Adventure Bay in the PAW Patrol Experience | Source: CAMP

TB: Experiences came to CAMP on a new level last year. How will CAMP build upon that success this year?

SK: More than ever, families were looking for things to enjoy together, and we were there to offer these experiences from Encanto CAMP to Nike Kids CAMP. As part of our rotating model, these standout shows will soon move to other CAMP stores for more families to enjoy, and new ones will launch in stores this year, too.

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TB: What are some of the big wins for CAMP on the product front? Have any categories or products been performing exceptionally well?

SK: STEAM toys are trending! We are seeing our customers choosing toys with which they can build, explore, and express themselves. CAMP was the only brick-and-mortar retailer where customers could touch and feel a Toybox, a 3D printer that makes toys in less than an hour. We also have seen success with CAMP spins on classics, such as exclusive launches with Magna-Tiles and Loog guitars.

The Paired Play Puzzles are a CAMP private label offering. | Source: CAMP

TB: What are some key considerations for CAMP when it comes to bringing in new products?

SK: We love the idea of bringing products to our customers that allow for a sense of discovery, not the same products that you find on the shelves of your local mass market retailer. Our newness really reflects that, especially in the new launch of our private label collection featuring a line of wood toys.

TB: On Dec. 10, CAMP’s Founder and CEO Ben Kaufman tweeted that CAMP had its biggest day ever. How did the overall holiday season play out?

SK: We had a fabulous holiday season, and were chasing inventory right up until the very end. The biggest challenge was with products that were also sold in mass outlets — it was clear these outlets were overstocked and they were slashing prices right and left, which for a smaller player like us, was difficult to keep pace with. However, our differentiated assortment more than offset these challenges and we are happy with how the season played out!

Disney’s Encanto made a big splash at CAMP last fall. | Source: CAMP

TB: How does Toy Fair moving from February to September impact your business, and what’s your take on the trade show shift?

SK: It won’t have any material impact on our business. We don’t rely heavily on trade shows to discover new products and instead are constantly developing new relationships with small, independent toymakers and strengthening our relationship with the bigger folks.

TB: What are your overall predictions for the state of the toy industry and toy retail this year?

SK: Thankfully toys tend to be somewhat recession-proof, so I don’t expect the industry to take a steep decline should the economy soften. However, I do think shoppers will be more discerning with their dollars, in that they will look for high-quality, long-lasting toys that have more play value than just for one season. There is also a pendulum swing of back to basics that will likely be at play here, and CAMP is well-positioned to serve that customer need.

A version of this Q&A was originally published in the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue! Want to receive The Toy Book in print? Click here for subscription options!