The Toy Store is Dead… Long Live The Toy Store

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The Toy Store is Dead... Long Live The Toy Store

As an avid retail observer, and with recent headlines Toys R Us still in mind, something pulled me into a mere 2,000 square foot location of a little toy store in Jackson.

I was spending a delightful vacation in the majestic state of Wyoming, in a town called Jackson Hole, when I found a toy store just off the main square. As an avid retail observer, and with recent headlines Toys R Us still in mind, something pulled me into a mere 2,000 square foot location. As I started my “in-person” browsing in the Jackson Hole Toy Store, I saw two kids playing as if they were in an old west town with their small wooden Winchester toy rifles.

When I took a careful look, I saw these two kids with their mini rifles

Soon my focus shifted from what was on the shelves to what was going on in the store. It took me a few seconds to realize that the entire place was an arcade shooting range built around shelves full of “targets’ of fun. The intentionally selected merchandise included mining goods like Fossilized Trilobites candy treats from the New Jackson Hole Mining Company, and a great selection of unique, artisan influenced toys made of wood.

Remarkably, it was hard to find anything made of plastic and or related to electronics. Much of the merchandise appeared to be sourced in North America and Europe, rather than the traditional global production centers, used by large toy manufacturers.

By the checkout counter were a few moms and grands, most of them, like me, with extra leisure time and willing to pay the premium that comes with some out-of-the-ordinary fun.

More than just a vacation anecdote, this experience “triggered” some thoughts I had meant to share when the news recently broke that Toys R Us was closing its doors. I meant to write about a tremendous opportunity that had been lost.

Parents and grandparents are looking for a place to break the mold and have a different kind of fun with kids after school or over the weekend. Something away from the lure of becoming completely absorbed and separated by TVs, smart phones and tablets. It’s a category with big players and wonderful products that’s in desperate need of an engaging, tactile, socially interactive showroom, where innovators from all over the world can create buyer experiences with the toys that will dominate the coming year’s top ten Christmas list.

The missed opportunity for Toys R Us was perfectly captured by the Jackson Hole Toy Store, which delivers the future of experiential retailing today:

…a strategic mix of a carefully curated selection of toys (or any category of products), with interactive technology, and entertainment for the customers leisure time (which will always be in abundance).

The perfect toys in the perfect environment…a unique location…a place with abundant free time and gaps in planned family activities. A town filled with well-heeled family tourists…and voila! the formula for this company’s “big bang” is there.

But to become a business and build a brand, there’s much more to contemplate…and do! They’ve got the brick & mortar experience right, from products to decor to service, but in today’s environment no one and I mean no one will flourish if they’re not innovating and working to bridge the digital divide.

The question is not brick & mortar vs. digital, it’s both. A unified shopping experience, online, offline and through all social media platforms.

Regrettably, my wonderful little shopping experience will simply remain a pleasant vacation memory, if these visionaries don’t get their digital act together fast. They need to capture data on their droves of visiting tourists and use the same innovative ingenuity that led to the in-store experience, to engage and delight each visitor when they’re back at home and on-line.

If they don’t, their potential for growth will be limited to the two tourist seasons of their quaint western town near Yellowstone National Park.

I hope the Jackson Hole Toy Store proves the industry naysayers wrong by making retail fun, exciting and profitable again. The owners told me they’re already planning to open a second location and preparing for franchising. Who knows? Someday soon I may be able to take my grandchildren to their store at my nearby Aventura Mall to get the full experience. But, if not, I would at least like to maintain my “cool grandmother” reputation by visiting the Jackson Hole Toy Store online and ordering something unique and fun!