Industry leaders, retailers, and manufacturers weigh in on toy trends, changes, and more in The Toy Book’s annual State of the Industry Q&A. 

CHRISTINE OSBORNE, Owner, Wonder Works

What is one of the biggest challenges specialty toy retailers face, and how is Wonder Works addressing it?
Staying relevant is one of the important challenges specialty toy retailers are facing in 2019. Discovering the experiences and products customers want and expect and tailoring one’s business to offer them are key to developing this year’s business plan.

Reviewing our product mix for the age categories we provide for in our communities is essential to curating highly profitable, sought-after items. This involves expanding product categories, whether it is crossing the line into items mainly found in the mass market or adding certain adult gift categories for the moms and dads who are shopping in our stores already.

Wonder Works debuted the country’s first Mattel store within a specialty store last year. Was the concept successful? What are your plans to expand this year?
Wonder Works’ partnership with Mattel is extremely successful because the designated section allows customers to focus on one area for Mattel’s trusted brands—Barbie, Thomas, and Hot Wheels. Knowing they are getting the best of Mattel’s offerings and are experiencing in-store Mattel events allows for a well-rounded shopping experience.

Wonder Works also worked with Fat Brain Toys to assist in developing a couple of experiential shopping opportunities for customers, including a play table with display and play bins and a free-standing, three-sided unit that turns the merchandise three times faster. This houses shelves, a flat wall, and play bins for a great hands-on opportunity to play.

In 2019, Wonder Works looks forward to taking toy brands to the next level. Wonder Works will feature a unique, designated section for a well-known brand. Much time and effort has been placed into this project, and it is expected to be a revolutionary experiential and shopping experience much needed in specialty retail shops.

Do toys from mass market manufacturers have a place at specialty retail?
Absolutely. After the initial craze when L.O.L. Surprise! requests hit specialty stores in 2017, specialty retailers quickly learned to adapt, work together, and partner with companies that were willing to focus on specialty, such as KidFocus. The development of product sharing of MGA Entertainment brands with specialty stores was difficult at best in the past, but the generation of KidFocus created a pathway. Additional brands, products, and offerings were provided assisting specialty stores’ relevancy image.

Numerous distributors, such as License 2 Play, also bring mass-specific products to specialty, which due to a large social media presence, specialty can no longer ignore.

Companies including Moose Toys and Jakks Pacific are getting a broader customer base through the specialty channel License 2 Play creates. By offering these mass products to their customers, specialty stores are introduced to a customer base that may never have entered their stores otherwise. It is a win-win for all.