No Way We’re Extinct, Indie Toy Sellers Say

By Jonathan Takiff
Philadelphia Daily News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Don’t count independent toy stores out just yet! The president of the trade group representing toymakers nationwide says indie toy sellers now function as trusted “curators” for their guests, as guides delivering personalized services you can’t find in those big box retailers.

Philadelphia Daily News

Like book and record shops, the charming independent toy store has been virtually written off in this age of online and big-box emporiums.

But don’t talk endangered to Michelle and Paul Gillen-Doobrajh, the “mom-and-pop” team that opened Tildie’s Toy Box in Philadelphia last summer “to a great response from the community,” Michelle said.

And don’t murmur extinction to the powers that be at the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, a trade group representing 800 merchants, plus 1,000 sales reps and toymakers nationwide.

ASTRA recently released its carefully vetted 2016 Best Toys for Kids Awards, “one of the few toy awards that doesn’t have entry fees, equalizing the field for small makers,” said association president Kimberly Mosley. There isn’t an Elmo or Barbie, Razer ride-on, Airhog or “collectible” anything in the bunch.

Mosley said that toy reps, agents selling for different manufacturers, “say that 75 percent of the stores they used to sell to 10 years ago are now out of business.” Yet she said she believes “we’ve hit the bottom of the market and are on the way back up.”

One reason: As with the recently rebounding record and book businesses, indie toy sellers now function as trusted “curators” for their guests, as guides delivering personalized services you can’t find elsewhere.

“More often than not, you’ll be greeted personally by the owner of the shop,” Mosley said. “They’re happy to assess your needs, ‘Tell me about your child, and I’ll show you what’s appropriate’, with a personal walk around the store and hands-on experience.”

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