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Why Independent Toy Stores may be safe from the growing threat of Amazon

At almost $1500 a share Amazon is seen as the market leader in retail.

Predictions are dire for retail and toy stores especially large department store like Sears and Target and malls across the United States.

They call it the retail apocalypse.

Is anyone  safe from the coming retail apocalypse?

The answer is – maybe.

Analysts look at what Amazon did to bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Nobles and think the online retailer will do the same to toy stores like Toys R Us.

Even the Trump administration is contemplating “doing something” about Amazon due to their dominance in the retail sector.

All retail stores are doomed. The evidence is clear.

Or is it?

Take Mary Arnold, an independent toy store that has been operating in Manhattan for last 90 years.

Mary Arnold Toy Store new location in Manhattan

They are still getting a good amount of sale as big chain brands like Toys R Us have struggled.

Their main strategy is to sell toys that aren’t available in the big stores.

The customer gets to shop in a more homely and personalized environment when they are at one of these indie shops.

A lot of Mary Arnold’s business comes from its repeat customers.

You can’t find name brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels at Mary Arnold. But you can find foreign brand toys like Bruder and Haba which are German toys.

They even carry Tegu blocks which hail from Honduras.

The indie brands aren’t anticipating any downfall in their sales as they do not sell items that one can find and big toy stores.

Mary Arnold owners Ezra and Judy Ishayik

The owners think that the people who buy at shops like Toys R US will ever find their shop amusing.

Indie shops like Mary Arnold have also faced online competition as their brands are also sold online.

Census Board surveys have shown that about 4% of the small toy stores have closed between 2012-15.

These small chain shops don’t think that the rather paltry 14% online market will reduce their current sales.

The indie toy store customers are also rising and so is profitability.

Take indie retail store Build a Bear. In February the company announced its fourth straight year of profitability and its stock rose 17%.

The company is debt free and growing, expanding its store presence some 12% over the last five years.

Parents and families want to buy something different for their children.

The personal feeling of kids opening and judging the toys can also be found in these small stores.

And store employees are part of that experience.   In the smaller stores, they are eager to help the customer when choosing a toy.

Department stores do not have that one on one customer service experience.

You walk into a KB Toy Store or Toys R Us and the sheer volume of items and the lack of knowledgeable sales people drive the customer toward an online experience.

But small stores have less space, and they need to organize shelves and displays to make their store inviting customers.

Also, many of the small stores have owners or employees who have been teachers for kindergarten or elementary school.

Build A Bear workstation

These independent retailers want people who love kids, have patience and are engaging when they converse with a child or a parent.

 

With Build a Bear, the company creates a unique experience for its young customers the moment you walk in the door.

Children of all ages are introduced to the different types of plush animals you can create (it’s not just for bears you know).

 The fun continues as you design the finer details of your creation such as color shape and style, to the “stuffer” where you can choose just how plush you want your animal to be, all the way to completion where you take your stuffed animal home.

The child and the parent know what they buy at stores like Build a Bear can’t be bought anywhere else.

And the independent trailers don’t have anything to fear from the new Amazon stores opening in Manhattan.

New York Amazon Bookstore. What’s the point?!

Those stores reportedly will not have the onsite employees and customer check out experience that has been the cornerstone of the independent store’s success.

So it’s ironic.  What Amazon is working so hard to get away from, is at the very heart of Build a Bear and Mary Arnold’s success.

And its why the smaller independent  toy stores will live to fight another day.

 

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