Advertisers discuss their customer service, new launches and lessons learned during a pandemic.
UGears US had plenty of its unique wooden mechanical construction kits on hand to fill orders during the shutdown, thanks to a shipment in March from its factory in Ukraine. In April, UGears introduced a drop-ship program and allowed customers to place smaller-quantity orders. In May it launched new STEM Lab by UGears models, and will introduce other, regular items this summer and fall so customers have a variety to choose from for the holidays.
“It is important to stay positive during these times and work to adapt to the situation,” concludes company owner Dmitriy Zverev. “We are concentrating on helping our customers any way we can, and making sure the product is in stock.”
In March, Crazy Aaron’s re-engineered its production line to produce hand sanitizer. Using the materials it had on hand, the makers of Thinking Putty created 100 gallons of the cleaning agent and donated it to first responders in its Norristown, Pennsylvania community. Then, in partnership with local Five Saints Distilling, Crazy Aaron’s was able to secure supplies for increased production – up to 1,500 gallons each day.
Owner Aaron Muderick hosts Instagram Live play dates in which he shares fun, educational, and meditative activities for people of all ages. He hopes his daily virtual presentations are an educational stress reliever for kids, and provide a small break for parents at home who are balancing work and fulltime childcare.
“Orders for Wrebbit 3D Puzzles increased dramatically in April, to the point where we had to add an evening shift,” says Claude Alary from Wrebbit in Quebec. The puzzles are manufactured in a just-in-time facility in Montreal with components from the U.S. and Canada. “Being a local manufacturer with local suppliers made a huge difference for us.”
Wrebbit launched two new puzzles – Hogsmeade – The Three Broomsticks and Hagrid’s Hut, which instantly became bestsellers. Sales have been almost exclusively online, Claude reports.
The company will participate in Toy Fair Everywhere and ASTRA Camp this summer to reconnect with customers. “We will work with them to make Q4 a success for all,” adds Claude.
HABA launched new products at gift and toy shows early in the year. “We haven’t experienced much supply chain disruption, other than some hiccups early on caused by the shutdowns in China, and minor delays on containers from Germany,” says Phil Wrzesinski, national sales manager.
Through May, HABA experienced a small decrease in B2B business that it expects will rebound later this year. “We have also seen an increase in B2C business, which is likely to hold through 2020.”
Phil wishes HABA had been faster to the table with bundles it offered to drop ship for retailers. “We missed the Easter window, but we learned a lot. We will be better prepared should there be future shutdowns.”
When the shutdown occurred, KALA’s warehouse remained open for shipping. “Between dealers selling online and our own website sales, business has been great. Thankfully, we had enough inventory,” reports Director of Sales Leanne McClellon. “People of all ages seemed to want to learn the ukulele. It became a family activity, and parents incorporated it into their homeschool curriculum.”
KALA introduced new products at the early tradeshows and is excited about getting them into stores. “When they re-open, our 2020 products will still be ‘new’ for months to come.”
Employees worked from home, and “We were pleasantly surprised how well it went,” notes Joy Cafiero, director of marketing. “Many of us continue to work from home.”
After Toy Fair, The Good Toy Group donned pandemic gear at its Rhode Island headquarters and began selecting products for its annual holiday toy catalog. Member stores were closing for in-store shopping, but they were winning online sales by using video-selling techniques and ramped-up website and social media efforts, reports TGTG. Offering local delivery and curbside services, they remained the toy/game/puzzle/Easter-basket resource for communities nationwide. Thus, the high demand for fun, creative, off-screen activities was met.
Sales may be lower than last year’s right now, but there is a silver lining, reports TGTG. A limelight was shone on specialty toy stores, and loyal customers were created who relied on our retailers’ expertise and carefully curated product selection.
In April, Toysmith introduced easy new ways for customers to order products and payment options to help them in uncertain times. “Our revolutionary new terms-and-conditions program has no order minimums, no credit card fees, free shipping to all 50 states, and an annual rebate program that rewards loyalty and performance,” notes Laura Tommervik, Toysmith’s director of brand development and marketing. “What’s more, we have maintained 98-percent-plus in-stock levels and have great supplier partners that ship product in a timely manner.
“Our plan is to continue to work with customers to help ensure their success. At the end of the day, we want to make it as simple, efficient and joyful as possible to align with Toysmith.”
Anne McGilvray & Company, 1-800-527-1462