by The Bloom Report | 30 May 2021
The Bloom Report
From just one phone conversation, I instantly understood why Arnold Maggi proclaims himself as a Toys R Us kid who never grew up.
Arnold entered the Toy & Game Industry around 50 years ago at the 5th Avenue F.A.O. Schwarz as the Store Manager. He vividly recounts his interactions with celebrities looking to buy toys for their kids or even themselves.
Arnold recounted his frequent interactions with big name celebrities. For example, one time Michael Jackson arranged for a Pajama Party with his friends to take place overnight in the store. He also tells the story of when rats infiltrated the 15 foot long Easter Window Display, and passerbyers would remark at how impressive it was that they had battery operated rats driving around.
The reason why I wanted to interview Arnold was that he was eager to share his knowledge and advice. From his work at FAO Schwarz, running the Play World and Noodle Kidoodle chains, being VP for ToysRUs.com, and consulting for companies like Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Arnold has a wide range of experience and a lot of advice to give.
Arnold is frequently asked: How can I compete with the big guys?
He responds with: DON’T
There’s no way for anyone to compete with those big chains, so the only way to survive is to take a different path: Become a Destination Store.
What is a Destination Store? See Definition on POP Dictionary
Destination Stores have specialty merchandise and other activities like classes/workshops, a barber, bouncy house, race track, etc. to attract customers.
Reflecting on Toys R Us’s failure, Arnold recounts how they once had an amazing selection and no longer had a better one compared to the Amazons and Walmarts of the world. Their great selection was the reason people still went in.
His advice to retailers, big and small, is to make sure that there’s a reason to come into the store, and, when asked what advice he has for existing retailers to make their store more of a destination, he said in a chuckle, yet with sincerity, “Call me, and I’ll help.”
Arnold was engaged to merchandise a 70,000 sq. ft. store just outside of London and make it a truly Destination Store for Young and Old, Tourists and Residents. Mind you, these ideas were for a large store, but some might in some form be adaptable to smaller stores.
Hello Kitty Shop
Have a Fun Structure built by Sanrio with a 4 sided entrance for easy access and exit with shopping on both inside and outside and plenty of pink and purple neon signage.
A stage for Magicians to perform not only basic tricks that children will be able to do but also Illusions that will amaze and delight the Moms and Dads. I know a company that will be happy to be involved in setting up and manning the shop.
A full size mechanical Tyrannosaurus with moving head, neck and tail that lets out a mighty roar as the main attraction in this shop. There is plenty of merchandise available that will fill this shop as well as 5 ft. Dinosaurs hanging from the ceiling, available in kit form for sale.
A Pirate Ship
The center of this shop would be a quarter size Pirate Ship with a gentle sway that the children could climb aboard and let their fantasies run wild. Of course the ship would be manned by sales associates dressed as Pirates and plenty of tie-in merchandise for sale.
Bear and Animal Den
Full sized stuffed Bears and other animals would be placed in various areas of this Den with a person at the entrance actually making animals on a sewing machine from the skins to the stuffing and then the finished product.
Castles and Knights
To enter this Boutique the children would have to cross a moat and enter a Castle Façade to be greeted by a Mannequin Knight on a full sized stuffed horse both in full battle dress. There is plenty of tie-in mdse. and I have manufacturers that would love to finance this project.
Birthday Party Registry
Parents would be able to register their children's toy choices by going thru the store with their child and scanning their choices with an electronic scanner similar to the ones used for a Bridal Registry. This will cut down on returns, duplications and make for a “happy child”. The list would be printed for the persons attending the party by giving the Childs name at the register.
A complete party shop including paper goods, costumes of famous characters, cards and wrapping paper. Why send the customers to another store. This is a 1 stop store. Next to the Party Shop would be a Toy Bar with mdse. that is $10.00 and under for Party Favors.
The Exclusive Railway Express
an exclusive wood railway set similar to the popular Brio or Thomas the Tank except the names of the cars would be named after items in the Food Chain and will teach the children how to eat healthy. A Healthy Child is a Happy Child. Their would be several 4'X 5' wood tables throughout the store with The Exclusive Train Sets set up for them to play with, of course the train tables would be available for sale.
Have a model of the Apollo Space Ship cockpit built where the children can get strapped in and handle the controls of a lighted panel. I can work out a deal with the U.S. Space and Rocket Camp in Huntsville, Alabama for a free 1 week stay at the Camp each month in exchange for promoting their Camp. There is plenty of retail merchandise to go with this classification including the Telescope and Plastic Model Kits category.
Construction and Building
Have Lego, K'Nex, Meccano and other vendors build giant samples of National Monuments like Big Ben, The Tower of London, the Empire State Building and others. Contests would be arranged for the most ingenious models built. The children would have to walk thru a huge structure of The Eiffel Tower to get into this category.
Build an Octagon shaped kiosk with 8 computer stations where children can sit on adjustable stools and try out the latest software. We would charge a monthly fee to the software vendors for previewing their new software.
The center of this category would be an 18’x24' mesh habitat which would contain hundreds of live butterflies where the children would be able to walk among them. They can watch the complete metamorphosis lifecycle of how caterpillars change into beautiful butterflies. We would carry Butterfly Gardens, Earth Worm Nurseries, Ladybug Land, Anthill Kits and many other Habitats.. The structure would be maintained and serviced by the Vendor.
Children's Book Dept
This will be set up like a library with replicas of the old green library globes hanging from the ceiling. It would have children's table and chair sets which we would sell on a drop ship basis
from the manufacturers and the parents can sit with their children and read. We would also have scheduled Story Hours where new books are read by either the Authors or the associates.
We can have a Theatre on a small stage with a 72” TV screen complete with red velvet curtains and gold tassels. The stage could be used for puppet shows, magic shows, children's movies and special appearances by famous children’ singers. We would also have children's CD's playing on the store’s audio system available for sale.
One section of the store would be devoted to Teacher's and Home Schooling with Trimmers, Posters, Boarders, Charts, Teacher's Resource Books, Recognition Awards, Lesson Planners, Cork and White Boards, etc. The Teacher's would be issued a 10% Discount Membership Cards and a big RED APPLE would be hung from the ceiling in the middle of the section.
This market covers ages 8 to 12 and represents almost 20% of the Toy Industries $22 Billion Sales Volume. The sales are split 60% girls and 40% boys. We should try to make this store non-gender as both genders overlap now when choosing Toys.
Have LGB (large gauge train) track suspended from the ceiling on a plexi-glass platform with 2 trains running in a figure 8 over the train dept. Have Merklin, Hornby and LGB construct landscaped layouts on a 12'x15°x3' high platform with multiple trains running all day. A 2' clear plexi-glass shield would surround the platform to protect the trains and the children.
A let's Pretend shop for boys and girls to primp and pose in front of a plexi glass mirrors. There would be hundreds of costumes and hats to try on and of course for sale Ballerinas, Pirates, Tutu's to Superman and other Characters. Dress-up is not just for Halloween.
We would become the place to shop for dolls and accessories along with an adoption center and a Hospital Center for injured dolls. I can approach Mattel and try to work out a deal to open an American Doll Boutique. The Doll Category would include Cradles, Playpens, Furniture, Clothing and other accessories.
Children's Lifestyle Furniture
Children picking out furniture for their room. This would include Toy Boxes, Table and Chair Sets, Lamps, Bookshelves, Vanities, Computer Desks, Arts and Crafts Activity Desks and Easels. These would be drop-shipped from local manufacturers as no one likes to stock bulk inventory in their warehouse. Drop shipping is a great way to do business, no markdowns, no shipping, no handling, no inventory, just cash coming in.
We can work out arrangements with one of the Local Banks to set up a Children's Bank Boutique with a Children's Debit Card. The Debit Card would have a picture of the child and the child's thumb print on it. The Bank can have classes on the basics of handling money.
These children could be future customers of the bank.
Pet Shop Boutique
The pet industry does $58 billion a year. That is almost 3 times larger than the Toy Industry. We can set up a boutique to make Pet Arts and Crafts, Feeding Dishes, Design their own Pet Tags Make their own Pet Toothpaste, make healthy Pet Cupcakes, See the same colors that your pet sees and make fun Pet Toys. This gives the children a sense of accomplishment and remember “children learn best when they are having fun”
Kids Cooking Corner
A child size Kitchen that will have a huge selection of let's pretend fruit, vegetables, pasta dishes from around the world, pots, pans, dishes (plastic), desserts, cups, saucers and tea sets. Of course we would have an assortment of all the up to date appliances and wood stoves, refrigerators, sinks and cookbooks. We will also have demonstrations by some of the top Chefs.
Radio Control Cars and Trucks
Have a Racetrack set up where children and adults can race their vehicles on Special Days and meet representatives from the top Company's while competing for prizes donated by the Company's for the winners.
This is a Category that is becoming more popular each year and we should take advantage of it by holding classes on the basics given by the vendors where the children can learn how to build a Robot and prizes awarded to the child with the best invention. There is plenty of Retail Merchandise to compliment this area.
Princess Doll Collection
Instead of The American Doll Collection from Mattel we can have an International Princess Doll Collection as an exclusive. We can have the top 10 Princesses and each Princess would include a book of their countries history. We can have our own Grand Preview Fashion Show using tween children and a runway set up in the store. The children would be wearing the dress of the country they represent.
Horticulture for Kids
Set up an 18’x24' terrarium, that children can walk through, with live plants like Venus Fly Trap, Herb Gardens, Mini Palm Trees, Cactus gardens, Dinosaur Plants, Marigold Cactus, Meat Eating Plants, Princess Garden Plants, 10 different types of Miniature Trees and many more. These all come in kit form and are reasonable priced. These kits blend real science with entertaining themes that are both cool and unique. I will try to get the Manufacturer to build and man this booth.
The Big Top
Set up a Circus theme using a big Red and White Tent with Playmobil, Schleich, Steiff and a host of other Plush Manufacturers that make full and regular sized animals to fill the tent these companies have plenty of products to make this a fun place to shop. Associates dressed as clowns will help and delight the children.
This is an inflatable line of Play Structures that cost from $1,500. To $3,000. They can keep the children occupied while their parents shop and can be used in the Party Rooms. They make Castles, Forts, Sport Sets, Houses, Gigantic Slides and others. Let's not forget a Music Shop with a Player Piano at the entrance wired to play on a loop all day long by itself as an attraction. The Schoenhut Co.can stock this Boutique. We can also have a electronic floor piano like they had in the movie "BIG” which I introduced to FAO Schwarz on a smaller basis when I was working there.
As the main attraction in the store we could have a new or restored working full sized Antique Carousel for the children and parents to ride. A good restored Carousel will cost about $200,000. A new one about $600,000. This is the most important and most expensive idea. It will make The Store one of the important tourist and resident stops in the country. You want to have not only the biggest toy store in the world but also the most fun, unique and interesting experience for children and adults. The Carousel people I have spoken to recommend a good restored Carousel over a new one. (I just heard you let out a big sigh)
A Personalized Book Kiosk where children can choose from an assortment of 10 hard covered books and their names will be inserted in the book and become part of the story. The books are created right at the Kiosk while they wait..
A Souvenir Shop
We can have either Lego or another construction company builds a 12 foot high replica of the Statue of Liberty with an entrance in the middle that will lead to the shop. This store will become an International Tourist must visit shop.
An all year round Holiday Shop for Mom's
There would be ornaments from Poland, Italy, Germany, Christopher Radko, German Pyramids, Advent Calendars, Nutcrackers, Figurines from Department 56, House of Hattan, Steinboch, Christian Ulbricht and much more. Moms will love this. The Mom's need a place to shop also.
Hair Cutting Salon for children
This is another great way to have Mom's bring their children into the store. There will be fun animals and cars for the children to sit in while having their hair cut.
Life Size Chess Pieces
Children and Adults can play chess with pieces their own size.
Arranged, by appointment only, of the store during the week where the children would be entertained with Puppet Shows, Magic Acts, Cooking Demonstrations or new movie releases.
The Collectible Category is a $7 billion industry. 70% of collectors are female. 80% of total sales are from retail and 20% are from catalog. Dolls represent 20% of the $7 billion. The rest is made up of Figurines, Plush, Ornaments, Die Cast, Cottages/Villages, Music Boxes, Plates, Steins, Snowglobes and Crystal/Art Glass. Moms will love this.
Circular Play Area
Build a 15ft. Circular Play Area with an entrance on both sides and a top 18" shelf with a 3" rim so the toys don't fall off the shelf. Attached to the outside of the Play Area would be a foam seating area for the parents to interact with their children. Remember once a child gets their hands on a Toy, it is half sold.
Written by Harrison Brooks