Delivering Joy and Laughter One Toy at a Time

Posted: June 15, 2024
Category: Manufacturer Spotlight

By Wanda Lenoir

Toys have a unique way of bringing happiness and brightening the day. Some toys are squishy, just waiting to be squeezed. Others are perfect for calming fidgety hands and slowing down busy feet. And, of course, toys can help children learn to use their imaginations in the most remarkable ways. But sometimes they are designed for you to have fun. Kylie Whitehead, Toysmith’s National Key Accounts Manager, loves her job. She "talks toys" at every opportunity and can be spotted playing with her favorites at every convention. While some think toys are for kids, Kylie also wants adults who are young at heart to get in on the action.

Kylie believes toys are ideal impulse items for retailers who want to generate sales at checkout and create visual excitement at critical locations throughout the store. She shared her insights with our Editor to help store owners learn more about the company and the available retail solutions Toysmith offers to build community and grow their businesses.

Is Toysmith a family-owned business?
Toysmith began its journey in 1982 as a family-owned and operated business with the Water Snake, an item that has consistently remained a top seller. Over the past 42 years, the company has transitioned ownership. Still, our core values and objectives have remained steadfast: bringing joy to consumers while providing our retailers with the best possible customer service.

What categories/products are trending now and popular with kids?
Typically, when one thinks of trends, one expects to hear about particular themes. With impulse products specifically, the trends are less about the theme and more about the play pattern. Slime, for example, is a trend that is here to stay, and there are so many different categories of slime. Fidget items are still trending strong, though leaning more toward the quieter fidget items that may be less conspicuous. Another play pattern I don’t see trending down is squishy/ stretchy. These are all high-touch sensory input play patterns, which studies continue to show are important. They help calm and relax children (and adults!).

Should regionality and seasonality be considered in a retailer’s purchasing decisions?
The most profitable toy programs in hardware are impulse-driven (like our Joy Towers) and are not typically impacted by regional or seasonal trends. However, we have many lines of toys and activities that are seasonal, regional, or both!

My favorite brands, Beetle and Bee and Outdoor Discovery, often perform best in Spring and Summer! These are our kids’ gardening and outdoor exploration lines that focus on getting kids outside, whether that is out on the balcony, in a neighborhood park, or in a national forest!

I especially love Beetle and Bee in hardware stores with successful garden sections or nurseries! The line was designed with today’s parents in mind. It is beautiful and contemporary, with colors that won’t get lost in the grass. All the tools in the line are high-quality—made of metal and FSC-certified wood. This means that the trees harvested for use in this line are from certified, sustainable harvesting methods.

Outdoor Discovery does well in communities near state and national parks and areas with an influx of camping tourism. It was designed to make the outdoors accessible and offers classic exploration items like binoculars and compasses, as well as unexpected gems like our best-selling Hoot N Holler Animal Caller!

How should toys be positioned and merchandised at independent retailers?
When a hardware store begins to offer kids’ products, I always suggest starting with impulse programs strategically placed near the store entrance. These programs thrive in high-traffic areas and send a clear message to shoppers: families are welcome. We strengthen community bonds and cultivate lifelong loyal customers by fostering a shopping environment where parents and families feel at ease with their children.

For inline programs, such as our Beetle and Bee Kids gardening line of tools and activities, I urge buyers to consider what adults are seeking that these products would complement. This often entails positioning children’s gardening tools and activities in the garden section or nursery. Remember, just because an item is designed for children doesn’t mean that its ideal location in-store is a conventional “toy” section.

What are some tips and ideas for visual merchandising?
Kids’ products won’t be their first stop when folks enter a hardware store. That’s why showcasing those toys and activities in high-traffic areas is so important. Utilize end caps and our variety of displays, and keep products at eye level for the kids.

One of the things I enjoy helping stores with is merchandising! That’s why Toysmith has so many options – for all our lines. No matter your store’s layout or size, we have the right merchandising solution for you!

How often should towers be refreshed?
Our Joy Towers typically turn 2.5 to 4 times yearly, depending on store traffic and placement. Look at your assortment once or twice a year. The entire program sells a little better when there is a sense of newness – even if it is just one or two items. And with hundreds of toy tower-compatible products, there are more than enough options to give you that freshness! However, keeping your towers full is even more critical than freshness in a tower! A tower full of products is more fun to shop and, in turn, sells better!

What products do you recommend for retailers with limited space?
The products I suggest always depend on the space retailers have available. However, you can’t go wrong with impulse items. My top picks are our Mini Tape Measurer, the timeless Wind-Up Chick, and any of our slimes.

If you’ve got floor space to spare, I recommend a freestanding solution. Our Joy Towers consistently deliver the most impressive impact and sell-through rates. However, if space is limited, we also offer smaller corrugate solutions that are perfect for seasonal impulse products.

In what ways does Toysmith differ from competitors?
What sets Toysmith apart is our exceptional merchandising solutions. We go above and beyond to simplify bringing kids’ products into your store. We offer free freight to all 50 states and no minimum order requirements to ensure that retailers can effortlessly keep their programs well-stocked and visually appealing. Plus, we’re continuously fine-tuning our curated assortments so retailers always have the best-selling products in their program sets.

What is your philosophy on the importance of customer service?
Customer service is incredibly important to us at Toysmith. That’s why we have worked hard to simplify ordering and information-finding. The team is constantly striving to improve our buyers’ ordering experience—our website is incredibly easy to use. However, we know that not everyone likes to order online, so we also accept orders over email. We want you to order in whatever way is easiest for you!

What is the one thing you want our readers to know about Toysmith?
I love my job with Toysmith. I love introducing hardware retailers to the world of children’s toys, gifts, and activities. It is genuinely so fun. If you ever visit me at a hardware trade show, the probability that I am actively playing with our toys is very high. But here’s the best part: our products aren’t just about boosting impulse sales or increasing your average ring. More importantly, they bring genuine joy to your customers and community. At Toysmith, we deliver ‘more joy beyond the toy.’