Toys ‘R’ Us Closing Sparks Renewed Interest in Neighborhood Toy Stores

Laura Richards
Jun 4, 2018 · 3 min read

By Laura Richards

Window display of an independently owned, neighborhood toy store.

With the recent closing of Toys ‘R’ Us, many parents and kids feel lost. Sure, it’s the end of an era, but it’s not the end of the standalone toy store. Of course, big box stores like Target and Walmart will be a likely destination for Toys ‘R’ Us customers but thousands of neighborhood toy stores across the country are ready and waiting for families to discover what’s always been there: an individualized, community experience.

Families can spend time at their neighborhood toy store to see what’s new and get to know the owners which fosters a wonderful sense of community. There’s nothing better than walking into a store where the people know your name or having something unique in mind just for your child.

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) says small stores like these offer owner expertise and customer service second to none, and the group is expecting that half of all regular Toys R Us customers will visit their neighborhood toy store in 2018 as a result. “We’re projecting a 20% increase in revenue between now and the end of the year,” says ASTRA president Kimberly Mosley.

Store owners are passionate about what they do and are often experts on every stage of childhood offering toys that fit the region where kids live. They can help select the perfect birthday gift for that hard to buy for child or offer input on a toy that’s just right for a special needs child…something the big box stores can’t provide.

Other advantages of shopping local include:

· High-quality selection of unique and interesting products selected by owners to spark a child’s imagination — items you would not find in a big-box store.
· An exceptional customer shopping experience, including expert advice and the opportunity to play and try out many of the toys in the store.
· Toys and games for every age and budget.
· Neighborhood toy stores are part of the community and care about giving back by hosting events and workshops for families.

With the 2018 holiday shopping season ramping up, local retailers from across the country will meet in New Orleans on June 10–13 for the year’s biggest gathering of independent toy sellers. If you’re in the area, ASTRA’s 2018 Marketplace & Academy is the perfect place to get a preview of all the hottest new toys and games before they hit store shelves, including their popular New Product Nook which will feature hundreds of never-before-seen toys and games — all out of the box and ready to be played with on the spot.

ASTRA will also be launching “Mighty Together” volunteer program to give back to the New Orleans community. Activities will include a back-to-school backpack stuffing event sponsored by Crayola, a volunteer school cleanup day, and food and toy donation drives intended to help more than 1,500 students and four New Orleans schools.

Whether you can make it to the ASTRA convention or not, please consider visiting your local toy store this week to see what’s new. You may be surprised by what you find!

To connect with independent toy retailers in your area, please visit: https://www.astratoy.org/

Laura Richards

Written by

Bylines at The New York Times, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe Magazine and more. Portfolio: www.LauraRichards.co

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