Spielwarenmesse: From retailer to event manager: there are reasons to buy all year round

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From retailer to event manager: there are reasons to buy all year round

from Sibylle Dorndorf

What is a retailer to do when the Christmas trade doesn’t quite “sing”? While the festive season has traditionally gifted the toy industry 40 to 50 percent of its annual sales, this once lucrative and sure-fire sales generator is now showing serious signs of decline. Excessively high discounts offered too early are putting consumers off buying in the run-up to Christmas, turning them into ruthless last-minute bargain hunters. As a result, the punch is being taken out of the Christmas trade. Therefore it is time to look for new shopping events.

Neither the traditional Easter Bunny and birthday celebrations nor Black Friday and Cyber Monday are helping to balance this out. Indeed, the only effect of the latter dates is to give online retailers a growing slice of the sales pie. The once joyful sound of Christmas carols in the toy retail sector has long become somewhat tortured, with doubts swirling regarding the power of Santa Claus and his ilk to attract. And while a majority of retailers find themselves in a state of shock-induced paralysis, others are slashing, flitting desperately from promotion to promotion and sale to sale. The result is a fatal downward spiral, and not just in terms of margins. The credibility of toy retailers and of the toy industry as a whole is also taking a hit.

And yet the goods move!

Festive articles, ice cream cup and cream cake for the little mermaid party.
Children’s birthdays and costume parties bring sales around the year.

We want to be cool and innovative, but a more or less spiritless surge around Children’s Day or Halloween is not enough to turn the tide. Others have the same idea. You need to do something different if you’re going to stand out. Take the Carnival industry. The companies in this sector have genuinely succeeded in establishing not only a fifth, but also a sixth and seventh “season”, to the great joy of retailers. Bachelor parties, Oktoberfest, themed parties, fan fests – these get people buying, all year round! And then there’s the textile industry. Concepts relating to cruise collections, sixties’ retro, “let’s party” and “veni, vidi, vintage” as well as fast-changing product lines generate excitement for “more”, thereby increasing the number of shopping trips and occasions to buy.

Today’s shoppers always want to be surprised, in a positive sense. With the constant availability of goods, you can only counter oversaturation when you understand how to create a story around a product and focus on presenting this. Content is the “open sesame” element with which you too can “play”. You will find what works for you. After all, if I may be so bold as to paraphrase Galileo Galilei: and yet the goods move!

Take a leaf out of the book of other industries and cultures. Mango, Zara and the like have long targeted young women with a different religious or cultural background, who have their own dress code and do not wish to go out in a short skirt or with their midriffs exposed. Look at an Islamic calendar and study the feast days and you will find that, for example, Eid al-Fitr (15 to 17 June), which marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, is as major an event in Islam as Christmas for us. People come together to eat and then give each other gifts. Children, in particular, never leave empty handed. What does this tell us? In our multicultural society, retailers have long had numerous opportunities for expanding their horizons.

There are occasions galore. The trick is to turn them into a reason to buy.

Children book on animals shows a chameleon
Celebrate the international day of children’s books with a book sales display.

Anyone wishing to start “small” might consider International Children’s Book Day (2 April) and create a showcase or activity area with a reading competition or event for families with children. Put classic children’s books that parents will remember from their childhood on display along with new titles. Add post-its and hand-written recommendations to favourite books. This is how you can target families with purchasing power and demonstrate your expertise.

Use your knowledge and experience and consider key information such as location, competitive environment and so on to put together the right mix of core and special ranges for you. This will set you apart from large stores who try to carry something for everyone. If you have carved out your own niche, you can go your own way. There is then no need to stick to the mainstream and play along on “official” occasions. Experience shows that a lot can be achieved with relatively little effort.

Take the example of one retailer I know – a kids’ beach party in the hot summer of 2018 helped to clear his summer depot, including the last few pairs of water wings. Booking an ice-cream seller to help boost sales took care of the rest.

Girls’ Day, Boys’ Day – you don’t need anyone to tell you how you can benefit from these.
Painting competitions entitled “My best holiday experience” – just hang the most original finished creations in your window and you’ve got an eye-catching display that will attract customers.
A similar effect can be achieved through holding a creative workshop to launch the crafts season. An evening reception with the best exhibits encourages people to browse – and buy. And the “ice age” at the start of the year helps to banish the post-Christmas blues when everyone has “run out of steam”. Amusing knit caps and beanies in your range can break the ice...

Plan your event calendar now

Create your own “event calendar” as early as possible. Get your regional advertising community on board and look for ways to cross-sell. Even chemist’s shops are a good point of sale for toys. In return, offer non-core pharmacy products such as children’s plasters and wet wipes. A powerful motto expressed well always ensures traffic.

There are plenty of ideas. Most are right in front of your nose. Apart from good Christmas sales, I’d also like to wish you a great year – don’t let any excuse to have a celebration pass you by!


Sibylle Dorndorf is editor-in-chief of the TOYS and 1st Steps trade publications from publisher Goller Verlag. Within the context of the media partnership with TOYS, Sibylle Dorndorf shares her many years of industry expertise in the Toy Business Forum. Attend the Spielwarenmesse® 2019 from 30 January to 3 February 2019 and take in the interesting presentations from many speakers in Hall 3A. To ensure you stay on top of your game.

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