It hasn’t been a good few years for big-box toy stores: Industry giant Toys “R” Us shuttered last year, retailers from Whole Foods to Ace Hardware are devoting shelf space to toys, and Amazon, which in 2018 saw toy sales spike 30% from the previous year, continues to gobble up market share.
But at Toyology Toys, a chain of four family-owned toy stores across metro Detroit, business is booming. “When we started, my goal was to double the revenue of any specialty toy store in the country,” says owner Aric Klar, who declines to share numbers but says he’s hit that target since opening the first Toyology in West Bloomfield in 2011. (The company, which Klar, 30, runs with his brother, Jonathan, and their mom, Nori, also has locations in Bloomfield Hills, Rochester Hills, and Royal Oak.) “There’s all these market dollars ready to be grabbed — it’s just about who’s going to grab them.”
How does Toyology thrive in such a fragmented, competitive sphere? Klar says it boils down to curation — he selects items based on quality, educational and play value, and price — as well as customer experience. “The product is variable,” says Klar, who began his career at age 12 selling Beanie Babies at his parents’ Farmington Hills drugstore. “The importance is the experience you’re able to build.” Whether it’s staff who offer personalized suggestions, the option to test out products in store, or free gift wrap, little perks go a long way, he says. “We have a one-on-one interaction with every customer who walks in the door. I happen to sell toys but I’m in the wellness, family, and experience-driven business.”
Toyology’s bread and butter, though, is its wholesale arm: It manufactures products under the label On Trend Goods, which it distributes to nearly 3,500 retailers nationwide, from Hallmark to Urban Outfitters. “If you take a cool invention to big companies like Mattel and Hasbro, it takes them a year to 18 months to act on it,” Klar says. “I can hop into [a trend] overnight and service toy stores within 24 hours.” Take the Boom Brick Speaker, a portable speaker that Klar discovered at a factory in China, then tweaked and brought to market. He sold almost 60,000 last year. “That’s huge,” he says. “And we’re doing it all from a grassroots business in Michigan.”
Visit toyologytoys.com for locations.