Three new retail toy concepts that emphasize discovery, play and learning over simply stocking and … [+]
TruKids Toys R Us, Mark Kauzlarich, Bloomberg; Camp & Playseum, Sanford Stein
As the internet has separated shopping from buying, it has turned traditional retailing on its head. Retailers that have gotten the message are beginning to think differently about “the goods” attempting to turn stores from a place of mere storing into ones of exploring. The toy industry finds itself at the forefront of this “reimagination” and retailers both large and small are attempting to rewrite the rules, emphasizing fun, discovery and even learning as a gateway to purchasing; essentially a reversal of the old “buy then play” into the new “play then buy” formula.
Central to the theme is one of the most anticipated store openings of recent memory, the newly relaunched Toys R Us, which opened in the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey on black Friday to much fanfare. Its new owners, TRU Kids Brands, expects to have 10 such stores opened by the end of 2020. And, other than the store’s name and various versions of their mascot Geoffrey, nothing is a carryover from the big-box blur of the giraffe’s past. It’s a different game, a new DNA and a recalibrated monetization play.
For starters the store embodies the latest in Retail as a Service (RaaS) thinking; whereby a third-party (TRU Kids) provides the expert staging for selected brands who pay-to-play, quite literally. The B8ta team, partners in the venture, acted as designers, merchandisers, and marketers for the highly edited, third-party brands. They created the destination “branded environment” for creative play and discovery, that leverages the Geoffrey nostalgia. It serves as a backdrop to an entirely new value proposition that emphasizes immersive engagement over pushing product.
Prototype Toys R Us store at Westfield Garden State Plaza embodies the Retail as a Service (RaaS) … [+]
Mark Kauzlarich, Bloomberg
Clienteling Meets Unified Commerce
While the new stores are barely a quarter the size of their predecessors (6,500 to 10,000 sq. ft. compared to the 40,000 sq. ft. boxes) clutter and product overwhelm are gone, replaced by inviting, well-lit open spaces, featuring product displays for the 40 or so of the featured brands. Complementing the product areas are a series of play and discovery zones. These include Geoffrey’s Tree House, a central climbing feature, along with Geoffrey’s Magical Mirror play-pod where a virtual Geoffrey mimics a kid’s movements. And recognizing the importance of “assisted selling” one of the highly trained Play Pros are close-by to aid in product discovery, as well as instore or online sales. In addition to the 1,500 pieces of in-store product, a large touchscreen featuring 15,000 online toys significantly extends the offering. Both the website and the fulfillment is powered by Target, a huge benefactor of the venture.
The store also features a theater/event space made for play and discovery. And while the kids are learning about the latest and greatest toys, the b8ta team and the brands footing bill are learning about consumer behavior, circulation, and dwell times via overhead cameras placed amongst the stylistic ceiling clouds. This gives new meanings to the term cloud-services.
Camp in the NYC Flatiron District emphasizes discovery, play and learning through immersive themed … [+]
Going To CAMP
The TRU Kids, Toys R Us relaunch is on the heals of the much discussed toy play, called CAMP. Launched in the Flatiron neighborhood in New York, in December of 2018. The concept has now grown to five stores, three of which are in New York with the newest recently opened in Hudson Yards.
For the uninitiated CAMP looks like a well merchandised specialty toy store, until its customers are escorting through the “magic door”, down a mystery passage and into the ultimate discovery camp; think toy store meets interactive kid’s museum. The camp theme becomes the foil for a constantly changing immersive activities; past themes have included summer camp, mystery camp and cooking camp. Kids play in about 20 different “demo stations” with toys featured in the store. Each theme is rotated out every 8-12 weeks to keep the concept fresh.
This past June, I had the opportunity to get CAMP’s full “back story”, as it was the launch site for a day-long immersive learning experience, co-sponsored by IBM and Futurism. Like the TRU Kids relaunch of Toys R Us, Camp is a fully immersive play experience. And while both concepts are indicative of the role that physical retail will play in a unified commerce world, the investment necessary for each was monumental. Meanwhile, I believe there is an overarching need to create monetizable, creative play and discovery venues that can accomplish some of what these concepts offer, but at a more affordable price. Enter Playseum.
The Children’s Playseum in Ridgedale Center, Minneapolis blends play, discovery, and learning … [+]
Pay to Play
The Children’s Playseum recently made its Midwestern debut in suburban Minnetonka, Minnesota’s Ridgedale Mall. Conceived and developed by Gina Seebachan, the concept was “designed to accommodate the imaginations of both adults and children, while providing a place to connect through hands-on play and memorable activities.”
While the concept is more play and discovery than store, there are unique revenue generators throughout, beginning with a very reasonable $9.00 per head cover charge. There are numerous, age appropriate play and discovery spaces that parents, infants and preschoolers, and grade-schoolers can engage in. Then there are feature “maketailing” opportunities for kids of all ages to dig into, using their “Playseum dollars.” These include in the Art Bar, Bakery Bar, and Science Bar. What kid wouldn’t want to make their own chocolate flavored toothpaste?
Gina indicated that Ridgedale is their third store, adding to two in Maryland; they anticipate opening another in Omaha, Nebraska. Gina suggested that the average stay for families was three hours, which I found stunning. She also noted that many of the “maker-materials” incorporated in the activity areas are sold in the specialty store, which occupies about a quarter of the space. There appeared to be much a family can do for the basic cover charge and many premium activities that would make for a more immersive experience.
While Toys R Us and CAMP represent magnitudes of investment beyond that of The Chidren’s Playseum, they all strike an important chord that will redefine the role of the store in the era of unified commerce. These concepts blur the line between play, discovery, and commerce, as well as resetting the stage from one of passive storing, to active exploring. Such concepts should help malls and centers as they transition from what was to what will be.