A Party to Help Parents Pick the Right Gift

July 25, 2014 at 6:30 AM Leave a comment


Specialty toy retailers have to plan aggressively and creatively to carve out their share of holiday toy sales. Rather than compete head-to-head with big box stores that offer deep discounts, extended hours and layaway options on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, they should do what they do best – offer lots of value and sound toy advice. Reach out to your customers and invite them all in to make their holiday gift shopping easier. Last year, a suburban Chicago toy retailer did just that with an effective in-store after-hours event. Parents and Lekotek Play Specialists – who work with children of varying abilities each day in therapeutic play sessions – were invited to the store to mingle during an evening of education and entertainment. The owner and store staff members presented toys and toy categories they thought would be hot during the holiday season, and made themselves available to answer questions like “What’s right for my kids?” and “What more can you do for me?” Our Play Specialists, who are familiar with the benefits specific toys deliver and are experts on how they are played with by children, demonstrated products, shared creative play ideas, answered customer questions and offered gift suggestions. The event was a win/win for the store and for parents. Any toy retailer can take this concept and run with it. You could call it “Toy Demo Day While Parents Play.” Here are some of the elements – in addition to toy demonstrations – we thought would make it an annual hit.

A pre-Thanksgiving date

Capture some holiday dollars before parents’ social calendars fill up for the season. Promote it as a “Sneak Preview” and early purchase opportunity. The ASTRA-supported Neighborhood Toy Store Day is planned for Saturday, November 9. Consider joining this event and benefit from the promotions and publicity the association offers. For more information, visit astratoy.org/ntsd.asp.

Expert-recommended products to play with

Check out the AblePlay website (ableplay.org), the National Parenting Publications Awards (nappaawards.com) and ASTRA’s Best Toys for Kids List and Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs (astratoy.com). Not only will they provide you with descriptions of toys you can highlight, they also offer features that make them special. Refer to these resources often and talk to parents about them to add credibility to your toy recommendations. Distribute your suggestions, and be ready to take early orders (early-order discount incentives can propel sales


You as the guru

As your community’s resident toy guru, you can offer a presentation on the benefits toys offer and the ways they go beyond their instruction sheets in play scenarios. Or consider sponsoring an outside speaker. That would free you up to talk one-on-one with customers, offer them purchase recommendations, and just generally build relationships with them without appearing to sell.

Enthusiastic helpers

To fuel your employees’ enthusiasm for the event and the products they’ll be selling there, have an employees-only Game and Play Night prior to your kickoff event. Close the shop and let the staff hop. Hold creative play competitions with prizes, share selling ideas, and ask each staff member to pick his or her favorite toy or two, and talk about why they love them.


Parent pampering!

Moms and dads, particularly those who have kids with special needs, crave, need and totally appreciate any pampering that comes their way. Make sure to serve refreshments at your event and, as a bonus, offer treats that can range from chair massages to ice cream. Cross market your products by sharing your discount coupons with other retailers, and vice versa.

“Special privileges”

Capture the e-mail addresses of your event’s attendees by offering them a shout-out when a limited quantity of a hot new toy comes in.

Premium wrapping services

Take gift-wrapping a step further by offering to wrap and hold purchases for pick-up on Christmas Eve day to help parents keep the element of surprise for their kids.

An event for parents held early in the holiday shopping season will make their toy shopping less stressful, more fun and just plain easier for customers to purchase their gifts from you. After they’re pampered, treated and exposed to quality play with quality toys, why would they shop anywhere else?

This article was written by Ellen Metrick, Director of Industry Relations & Partnerships for the National Lekotek CenterLekotek is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit www.ableplay.org for a complete listing of toys for children with special needs. Follow us on Facebook!

Source: EDPlay. September/October, 2013 issuu.com/nationallekotek/docs/septoct_2013/16?e=5110735/4741480

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July 2014


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