November 18 is Neighbourhood Toy Store Day in Canada. Why are independent toy retailers important?
Independent toy stores are integrated into the communities and neighbourhoods where they do business. Our stores are go-to places for families wanting to spend time together. They can discover, play, and create in our stores. As children get older they come in with allowance money ready to discover something new, or they drop by to pick up a birthday present. Our staff are residents of our neighbourhoods and, in many cases, we’ve watched them grow from customers to employees and beyond.
Independent toy retailers – independent retailers in general – contribute to healthy communities in many ways.
Why should consumers consider shopping at an independent toy store versus a big-box retailer or large online retailer?
Positive human interaction.
Independent toy stores offer people the chance to discover toys and games in a way that just isn’t supported any other way. Customers can peruse the shelves, see how other customers are interacting with the toys, receive great suggestions from staff and other customers. Customers receive valuable information and are able to make a choice based on their in-store experience.
We do offer online shopping, but the value of meaningful human interaction can’t be underestimated. It goes far beyond a simple transaction.
There’s been a lot of reporting on the state of Toys “R” Us. Do the same issues affect independent toy retailers?
It’s like comparing apples and oranges. The business model of big-box retailers is very different from independent stores; they have executive teams with large salaries who make decisions based on spreadsheets rather than the first-hand knowledge gained from being in store on a daily basis. And many large retailers are responding to (and sometimes creating) fads, rather than building something more meaningful.
Tell me about Mrs. Tiggy Winkles.
Maida Anisman – a creative genius – opened the first store opened at 835 Bank Street in 1977. She left her secure 9 to 5 job to open the store while she was pregnant with Simon, who now runs the stores alongside Maida. She loves toys and collecting and that inspired her to found Mrs. Tiggy Winkles.
We now have three storefronts: in the Glebe, in Westboro, and in the Rideau Centre. We closed locations in Place d’Orleans and Bayshore earlier this year. Shopping patterns have changed significantly in malls and we decided to focus on the original three stores.
Simon spearheaded our foray into toys and games for older children, a store called Lost Marbles, in the late 90s. Pre-teens are far more sophisticated now so we want to be sure we have edgier products for them to enjoy.
What is your pick for the hot toy of the 2017 holiday season?
I am asked about the “next big thing” so often!
Let me say this: people don’t shop at Mrs. Tiggy Winkles to buy the next fad. We’ve built our business on providing value and that comes through in the items we promote. People come to us for the new things, sure, but we are known for carrying the classic games and toys and playsets that can be expanded over time, like Thomas the Train, LEGO, and Playmobil. Our customers appreciate longevity; toys that won’t hit the landfill within a couple of months and things they can pass down to the next generation. It’s about creating memories. I think that’s where we really stand out.
Learn more about Ottawa-based Mrs. Tiggy Winkles on their website.
Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.