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How the book trade can benefit from toys

from Britta Meyer

Booksellers impart stories, knowledge, poetry, imagination, creativity and more through the books they sell. They could do all of this with games and toys as well. Why not, therefore, offer games or toys that go well with a book or product group? Take a story on the written page and bring it to life, so to speak.

As is so often the case, there is no pat answer when it comes to questions on which products to include in a range. Sellers have to consider many factors, including other offerings nearby, their own business objectives in terms of what they want to be in their area and, last, but not least, how much of a feel they have for the goods.

If we think in terms of grounds to buy and customer groups, bookstores are the perfect place to sell games and toys as well. The target groups for toys are almost identical to those of books: parents, grandparents, people looking for presents and others who want to buy something entertaining for themselves. Given this, booksellers have an opportunity to become a little “entertainment store” in their area, with stories and characters in printed and toy form.

Toys complementing a book range

Games as an addition for the book trade
Games as an addition for the book trade

When establishing a toy range in a book store, it is worth using the age groups reflected in the book range as a guide. From product lines for babies through to infants, preschoolers and school children, there are always games and toy to suit the relevant ages.

Besides considering the age groups, suitable toys can also be added for themed lines. For example, a shelf with baby books might also feature toys that help the very young learn how to grip, listen and observe the world around them. Travel guides might be arranged side-by-side with travel games for the car, train or plane. Alphabet and number games are perfect when targeting preschool children.

Similar to book recommendations, board and other tabletop games can be displayed prominently at particular times of the year, such as the start of the summer holidays and Christmas, as recommendations of the retailer. Games addressing aspects of history might be positioned beside history books or mythical beings from the toy world on the fantasy shelf.

Keeping an eye on trends and innovations

Fidget Spinner
Trend products like the Fidget Spinner have potential for additional sales

Just like novelties and bestsellers, products in the toy sector surrounded by a great deal of hype, such as loom bands in 2016 and fidget spinners in 2017, have good potential to generate additional sales in the book trade as well. These products also “entice” young customers into the book store. It is important that such products show up on booksellers’ radars in good time.

The smaller the available space, the more important it is to uncover the hidden gems by visiting trade fairs and finding special toy products that will suit and strengthen the book range. Not least, this is also relevant in terms of sales price and margin.

Prepare customers for the new kinds of products on offer

Customers should notice that the store also sells toys before they ever set foot inside. Reading and play could already be linked in the shop window. Some reference to play might even be included in the name of the store. Depending on the size of the sales floor, a store may boast a table or entire department of toys. In any case, it is worth avoiding having exclusively books in one area and toys by themselves in another. Likewise, goods should be grouped according to target age and theme to spark emotion among customers and give them ideas for good gifts.

Checklist: How to successfully introduce toys in a book store

  • Range
    Don’t try to cater to all needs. Focus from the start on toys for a specific age group, for example.
  • Staff
    Make sure that somebody is in charge. There should be one employee with overall responsibility for the toy range, from planning and purchasing through to presentation at the POS. Just like with books, your employees are best placed to sell games they have played with and enjoyed themselves. So let your staff try them out. Some toy and game manufacturers offer games training.
  • Purchasing
    Trade fair visits are essential to discovering play worlds with a link to books and finding the hidden gems. Please take into consideration that there is usually no right to return toys bought directly from the manufacturer. However, it may be possible to purchase toys from wholesalers, depending on the product.
  • Pricing
    There are no price controls on toys. The manufacturer recommends a retail price. It is worth using the online price as your guide when pricing mainstream goods. For “hidden gems”, meanwhile, there tend to be markups of two times the purchase price and more.
  • Sales promotion
    Let your customers play in the store; set up a game station (e.g. near the checkout). Games evenings or combined reading/game events can also get customers buzzing about games ranges. Especially when first introducing toys, customers must be actively led to them. Therefore, promote your toys in all advertising media and channels, just like your book range, in order to raise awareness.

About the author:

Britta Meyer has undertaken various consultancy roles in the retail sector in the last 19 years. She is very familiar with the toy, book and specialist baby product trade and the needs of retailers, having moderated special interest group gatherings countless times. She works with retailers to not only analyse in depth various key performance indicators and market developments, but also create possible product range and market presentation change scenarios within the groups.


Author of this article:

Britta Meyer

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