by Victoria Ritter
In Medford, NJ, toy emporium Wonder World Toys is considered to be a staple in the community with its friendly atmosphere and local involvement opportunities. In turn, Co-Owner Alex Breaux attributes the store’s success to the support it receives.
Breaux and her sister-in-law, Jessica, founded Wonder World Toys in 2016, building on an existing business which had been operating for only a year. Together, with Jessica’s past experience in family business and Breaux’s retail expertise, they created a welcoming and prosperous toy shop.
Games and toys galore
Wonder World Toys carries thousands of SKUs, spanning from books and craft sets to sensory toys and stuffed animals. While it provides popular, large brands such as Ravensburger, Mattel and Hasbro, most of the store’s inventory features specialty brands including Hape and Bright Stripes. The products are displayed by categories such as active play, puzzles and tech. Customers of all ages can find something they like. “Our sweet spot is ages 5 to 10,” Breaux said. “That’s our bread and butter.”
The store itself is 1,500 square feet and is long and narrow. The store used to have a baby boutique in a separate section, with baby clothes and toys. However, the store is undergoing a rebranding, as the baby boutique is gone. “It just wasn’t turning a profit like we needed it to,” Breaux explained. “We gave it two years, and it wasn’t turning a profit, so I actually ended up turning that space into a craft room.”
With a small store, Breaux and her team have to be very selective of the products they carry. Choosing new products is a “gamble,” said Breaux. She makes decisions based on how well current products are selling and by polling kids who come into the store. “They’re always more than happy to help,” she said.
The most popular products at Wonder World Toys are Squishmellows and Pokémon cards, as adults who played Pokémon when they were younger are teaching their kids how to play. Breaux has seen stuffed animals, axolotl-themed products and novelty products gain traction. “We brought in Magic 8 Balls and the kids went crazy over them,” she added.
Over the years, Breaux has learned a few important lessons. She tries to “shop wide, not narrow,” buying less quantity of a certain product, but more variety. She also has an appreciation for how social media helps in advertising and promoting the store. While Wonder World Toys has an online store, it constitutes about 5 percent of business and is used by customers who want to pick-up the items in-store. “We can come in and have 10 pick-ups the next morning,” Breaux stated. “It’s our customers using the website to know what we have.”
Breaux has great plans for Wonder World Toys. She would eventually like to expand to more locations just like the one on Medford’s Main Street. She also wants to grow the store’s online presence and increase its shipping options.
Stronger through collaboration
Every store has its season ups and downs. The summer is a quiet time for Wonder World Toys, as people are more interested in traveling half an hour to the beach. Traffic builds back up around the holidays. Overall, the business is even with last year’s revenue, Breaux stated.
One event that helps draw customers is Merry Main Street, a “shop local” initiative that runs from Small Business Saturday in November to just before Christmas. As president of the Main Street Merchants, Breaux is spearheading this year’s event. The annual festivities include food trucks, art vendors, a town crier and live nativity. More than 20 local businesses participate, welcoming thousands of customers.
“It’s a group effort to bring Christmas to the street,” Breaux stated, adding that neighborhoods can help each other. “It goes to show that not every event has to be a solo event. If you get with your neighbors to create an event, you can be more successful.”
There are no other toy stores in the immediate vicinity of Wonder World Toys; the closest shop is about half an hour away, according to Breaux. “Our town is the last stop before you get to the beach,” Breaux said. “We’re the last stop in civilization for about half an hour.” In an effort to respect each other’s business, the stores don’t promote themselves in other stores’ areas.
Wonder World Toys is part of the wider toy community, as it attends several national shows. This past year, it was present at Toy Fest, ASTRA Marketplace & Academy and Toy Fair New York. Breaux plans to go to Atlanta Mart and the new North East Toy Show (NETS) in 2024.
Coming together as a community
The store is family-owned and -operated, staffed by four knowledgeable part-time employees. Customers are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the toys. “It’s great when people come in and can touch the toys and play with them,” Breaux said. “If someone has a question about a product and we don’t have a demo, we’ll open it up right away.”
There is more to Wonder World Toys than just its wares. As a large portion of customers are parents buying presents for birthdays and other special occasions, Wonder World Toys offers gift wrapping. Customers have the option of joining a loyalty program which provides sale and news notifications, discounts and free select products.
Wonder World Toys also hosts regular events. Every Thursday is Toddler Thursday as Breaux provides arts and crafts projects geared for 1- to 5-year-olds. Patrons can also enjoy monthly free cookie and craft events on Saturdays. Monthly Pokémon trading events typically draw in about 30 kids, including some new faces to the store. In the past, Breaux has hosted Lego mini figure trading swap meets. “We try to provide a wide variety of stuff,” Breaux said.
The store contributes to regional and national philanthropy. It hosts food drives and collects items for Toys for Tots. In years past, it has participated in the local police department’s National Night Out, a campaign that promotes police-community partnerships. Wonder World Toys also partners with the Medford Home and School Association for shopping nights at the store, during which 10 percent of proceeds go back to local schools.
While it has helped business, activities and community involvement isn’t always about driving more sales, Breaux stated – it’s about giving back. “My husband calls me the unofficial mayor of our town because everywhere we go people know me because of the toy store,” Breaux said. “It’s been really big. People like how we’re involved in the community.”