In years past, when a kid wanted a toy the only place to go was the local shop downtown, sometimes the only selection available was the limited toy section at the pharmacy or hardware store.
Now there are entire stores dedicated to toys, and with the advent of online sales there are even more places for toy shopping. In this day of possibilities, what’s the best toy store?
Finding the right shop might just depend on what it is you need the most (service, price, convenience, selection, quality, location).
Toys at General Merchandise and Big Box Stores
General merchandise stores offer everything from vitamins to video games including bikes and popular toys for all age ranges. These stores have increased their toy retail sections in response to the consumer purchasing preferences. The staff may not always be knowledgeable, but there is usually a decent selection at a decent price.
Target has even incorporated a section based on items usually found in educational toy stores, which offers an alternative to shelves of plastic. Most of these stores will have both physical locations and online versions with more item availability options.
Big box stores are often the larger “warehouse” versions of the already large general merchandise stores, although some are warehouse only and not associated with a smaller store. While the selection is often hit or miss, the prices are often quite reasonable. Stores like these don’t usually have much to offer in the way of personal service, so these stores are a good choice if the need to save a few dollars outweighs the need for knowledgeable staff. Shopping online is sometimes available with these stores as well.
Overstock Stores Have Unexpected Toy Savings
Liquidation or overstock stores are another option when saving a few dollars on toys is the main goal. Some of the items at these stores are manufactured for the store directly and some are brand name buyouts from other stores or branches within the company.
The specific selection is often spotty, but basic genres of toys are usually covered pretty well. There are physical stores in most places and there are online options as well for these types of stores.
Larger toy stores, such as Toys R Us, often have a wide selection of popular merchandise and some specialty items. These stores are able to offer lower prices than specialty stores because they are able to buy in quantities for all the stores nationwide which allows a significant discount. These are comparable to other big box stores in price and service, but because they are toy-specific stores the selection is often better than at other toy retailers.
Specialty Stores and Toy Boutiques
Specialty toy stores or boutiques are often single store ventures with the focus more on the store’s environment and service to the customer. The limited retail space creates an environment where the staff is more familiar with the majority of the products.
That makes toy boutiques a great place to shop if you need personalized shopping help, such as buying a toy for an important client’s child. The expertise of the average toy boutique employee vastly exceeds that of your average big box retailer.
The smallness of the store limits the ability to buy items in quantities large enough for discounts available to chain stores; because of this the prices are sometimes higher than they are at larger stores.
Most of these shops will purposefully avoid the ultra-low-priced items stocked by the larger stores and will focus on handcrafted, fair trade items.
Online Toy Stores
Online toy stores have the luxury of being very specific (dolls only, organic items, exclusively wooden toys, learning toys, etc) or very broad in scope. Prices are often listed at the low end of the price scale, because of many factors, including lower overhead costs. Customers visit at their convenience allowing 24 hours of shopping daily instead of 8-12 hours with full staff during those hours. Sometimes the items offered are shipped directly from the manufacturer, which reduces shipping items multiple times just so that it can be on display in the physical store.
And of course, these days many brick-and-mortar stores have online stores as well. Many stores use their online shop to offer niche items that they get from the manufacture upon a customer’s order. This way, many stores can sell toys that are not in high-demand, but not have to worry about storing them in their limited warehouse spaces.
Whether the goal is to support local businesses, shop for “green” toys, or find the lowest price, the right store is out there and ready for business.