Our 32nd annual trip to the New York Toy Fair was in February 2020, filled with handshakes, close contact and hugs. There was idle talk of “the virus.” “Would it ultimately affect us?” The most keen sales reps were advising us to order heavily foreseeing a product lag from across the Pacific. A direct trip from NYC to Bratislava, Slovakia to visit grandchildren ended with an early March call to come home and the question was answered. States were making their own health and safety rules, as were the communities within the states. We knew these rules were justified and knew it was frightening for our business. Retail stores like us were to be closed indefinitely.
It is much easier to manage fear when busy, so our minds and bodies remained in motion, shifting our store family to a higher level of creativity. There were a store full of bunnies with nowhere to go. Easter, our second largest selling season, was 3 weeks away. The AP ledger was bulging from a stocked store, due rent, and a bank note. Snoozy’s Kids is hands on, not web dependent. And temporarily we were no longer a retail store. So we became what we were calling Snoozy’s Kids Distribution Center. The store was flipped so that product could be seen 6 fixtures deep through our 4 windows. With one landline and with personal cellphones glued to our ears, we answered calls, texts, Instagram and Facebook messages prompted by established social media. Our posts were updated daily, as creatively as possible. Valued customers began to spread the word. Facetime was viable for virtual shopping. A big blue bin outside held pickups and masked and gloved we placed orders directly into cars. A home delivery system was initiated and shipping to anywhere continued. Custom Easter baskets, made from boxes lined with pastel papers, filled with toys and gifts then adorned with ribbons became a standard and comfort for many loving parents and grandparents.
Our customers desired normalcy for their now homebound families. Easter, birthdays, and new baby gifts were part of that. Each sale may have taken a bit longer, but each was gratifying. Supply disruption was at a minimum after communicating to vendors and delivery channels our “closed but open” situation. We found that our product distributors were also in unique positions, dependent as we upon their geographical restrictions. Some vendors were shut down but we were able to supplement by increasing orders from those who were fortunately open. Strong relationships with key sales groups were imperative, as was the will to dig deeply for new sources. Sandy Reuben and Associates, Diverse Marketing and Toys South went over and beyond to keep us stocked and informed.With Easter in the past and bunnies’ new homes secured, we centered our focus to outdoor and small group activity items, from water slides to puzzles for all ages and gifts for virtual teachers from the “george” collection inside our store. Our retail space was now open but with restrictions, strictly followed.
During summer months families did not travel much further than the park or lake, so their retail focus remained local. Our community Chamber of Commerce avidly supported it’s members. And our community with it’s family, small town oriented mindset supported it’s businesses almost possessively. Customers told us with pride that they were shopping local.
Who would ever have expected a mask to be a popular back to school item? Fall and Halloween rushed by. Then Christmas season came with shoppers still focusing on home, safety, and normalcy. Many returned because of our Easter protocol . They were comfortable within our store, masks required, sanitizers handy and common spaces sanitized daily. Christmas Eve was celebrated. Inventory was done. The year’s numbers are to be determined.
TOY FAIR 2021 IS CANCELLED. It’s time to get creative, again!
Snoozy’s Kids! is located at 228 Country Club Park, Mountain Brook, AL 35213. You can call them at 205-871-2662