Like all aspects of retail, the Toy industry is something that is constantly evolving to meet the needs of its customers. This involves changes in the types of toys produced, but also how to communicate and respond to the buying and playing habits of its shoppers and consumers. We had a look at some of big toy retailers and what it is they are doing to preserve the magic of the in-store experience:
Toys “R” Us
Toys R Us is a huge attraction for kids, especially the branch in Times Square, New York. From the in-store Ferris wheel, to the giant animatronic T-Rex and the New York landmarks constructed of Lego, the experience is sheer mania and overload. Toys “R” Us knows that it can’t always beat the low prices online retailers such as Amazon are able to offer, so instead needs to offer something more and plans to become the place that kids want to come to play as well as buy toys. To make this happen, the chain is introducing play areas into their stores with interactive technology that will engage kids and attract parents. These areas will make stores much more exciting to children, giving parents another reason to take them into the store. Plus the longer kids are entertained, the longer parents will peruse the aisles and probably buy a lot more than they set out to! The retailer also plans to hire more staff to boost customer service and add to the shopper experience.
In 2012, Harrods unveiled a 26,000 square foot gender-neutral toy department called “Toy Kingdom”, that instead of grouping products into boys and girls categories, they are organised by theme. The department includes an enchanted forest, miniature toy world, reading room, and candy shop (where kids can create their own custom lollipops). However, whilst the space may be free of explicit labels some customers still felt like there was an all too clear difference between the zones – with the Enchanted Forest filled with dolls, flowers and fairies, and the Toy world filled with Lego and trains. This may be true, but still a good step in the right direction – away from gendered playtime.
Over the years, Disney has continued to modernise its stores to make them more fun, interactive and easier to shop, whilst still holding on to the well loved Disney magic. Stores include mobile point-of-sale service, digital marketing signs with content catered to each location, as well as magic mirrors that allow children to see a talking image of a Disney character. Employees wield specifically modified iPod touch devices that let them take orders from shoppers as well as present the full range of products available online.
Over the years Lego have gone from strength to strength and transformed into an omnipresent brand that completely embraces the ‘Experience Economy’. As a brand they have a variety of output such as video games, large-scale events, theme parks and even a Lego movie in an attempt to create a ‘360 brand immersive experience. In store the ‘experience’ continues, particularly in Chicago where passers by are transformed into video game characters that can be controlled by body movements. This experience elevates the store from just a place for monetary exchange and instead it becomes more of an extension of Lego’s brand values. On top of this it automatically intrigues shoppers who may not have stepped inside otherwise.
In-store Lego have been featuring augmented reality in store for some years. In 2009 they piloted technology that allowed customers to look inside their chosen Lego box without having to open it!
Rather than selling toys purely for fun, Imaginarium focuses on children’s educational needs and social development. This pitch might not appeal directly to its consumers, children, but what definitely does is the design of its retail stores! At the entrance to each store, passers-by will find not one but two doors by which to enter – one adult sized and one only big enough for children. A fantastic gimmick that will entice children in – whilst the parents will hopefully be won over by the sensible products on offer.
Hamleys is London’s oldest and most famous toy shop and boasts seven floors of all the latest play things as well as more traditional and specialist collector areas.
Hamleys recently opened Europe’s largest toyshop in Moscow, which involved a new store-model that combines theme park and toy-store. Customers are taken on a journey through nine ‘worlds’ as they progress through the store, with features including a Go-Kart track, a full-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars in Space, a castle, and a 13m tall Lego rocket is constructed from 1.9m bricks. The experiential offering allows shoppers to interact with attractions, providing a deeper level of engagement and giving them a unique memory to take away.