While the big guys like Walmart, Toys R Us, and Target are having an all out price war, don’t forget your local mom & pop toy stores. It’s true that none of these stores can compete on price for mass market products–but that’s only part of the story. Small toy stores tend to offer toys that are available only to the specialty market. Some of our favorite toy companies have made the decision to stick with the independent toy stores rather than compete for shelf space in a big box store. So there are toys here that you won’t find elsewhere. The other major reason to shop in a small store is service.
When Joanne and I are going through toy fair, we always marvel at the toy buyers who not only have to look at all the new toys (which sounds fun, but gets physically draining after a day or two) –but they have to put their money on the line. Most aren’t part of big chains but individual store owners that have come to know what works and what doesn’t. They tend to really know their product line and since they want to build a relationship with their customers, will not push something just to move it out. That kind of relationship at retail is becoming a rare commodity.
So with that in mind, this Saturday ASTRA (the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association) is holding a nationwide Neighborhood Toy Store Day. You can check on their website to see what special events your local toy store is hosting. Sounds like fun.
If you’re a die-hard Black Friday shopper, know that Black Friday starts at TRU at midnight Thanksgiving night. The first 100 people on line will get a ticket to buy one Zhu Zhu Hamster. As with any hot toy, the price gauging has begun-with prices set a ridiculously high levels on-line.
We were delighted with today’s news that both TRU and Wal-Mart have raised the bar on safety standards for toys. Not waiting for Congress to act, these two super retailers are moving the industry along in producing safer products.Both retailers are joining California in banning phthalates (a softener added to plastics that has been linked to serious health risks) and reducing the levels of surface coated lead way below the current federal standard of 600 ppm (parts per million) to 90 ppm. What’s left? We will continue to call for the same reduction in embedded lead. Only the state of Illinois regulates the levels of embedded lead (requiring toys sold in the state to have levels below 600 ppm). The CPSC reports that a child died from lead poisoning after ingesting a charm that had excessive levels of embedded lead. This is a real risk that also needs to be addressed in all products for children.We need the government to follow the market–set the standards and require mandatory testing.