An Out of the Box Toy Experience

An Out of the Box Toy Experience

An Out of the Box Toy Experience 1440 428 Chute Gerdeman

In September of 2017, the American toy store brand Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy and most recently decided to finally call it quits with the decision to shutter all of its retail stores. An immediate reaction for many (us included) was reminiscing about all the childhood days visiting the store, and hello, let’s not forget Geoffrey the Giraffe. It seemed like a farewell to some sort of traditional adolescence of years of toy history, one leaving brands and retailers all asking, “Where will they shop now?” In a recent report by consumer intelligence platform Fuel Cycle 55% of Millennials said they now plan to purchase their toys online, but 58% of those same respondents actually prefer to shop at a physical store.

Kid playing with toys
Kid playing with toys

A lot has changed over the years in terms of how today’s kids seek entertainment and parents shop for toys. Consider how kids today are exposed to new toys. What was once a catalog delivered to doorsteps might now be a YouTube video of a kid “unboxing” the latest and greatest.

When it comes to selling toys though, just featuring the hottest toys on the market isn’t enough to bring in foot traffic. It warrants the question, “How do retailers cater to kids today?” Brand experiences like American Girl, FAO Schwarz, LEGO, M&M’s and well, let’s not forget the originator of the magical kid kingdom, Disney, have thrived for years by creating a true destination, where products may have been purchased but memories were made. Even in a time of change, there’s some honest fundamentals that these brands got right, and have kept surprising and delighting consumers across generations. As we approach the unboxing of a future toy experience there’s some key themes to consider.

Elements of Nostalgia

In a digitally driven world, parents are seeking moments of simpler times. Staying in instead of going out, cooking at home more often, and binge-watching Netflix shows like 80’s throwback Stranger Things. Old school gaming is getting a renewed life as both parents and kids alike are seeking moments of conversation. Last year alone board game sales in the US grew by 28 percent, according to NPD Group. It’s not just for the kids though. Arcades, tabletop cafes, and board game parlors are popping up everywhere. Adults are harkening back to childhood activities with a mature spin on it.

Packing on the Personalization


Personalized products and experiences continue to draw interest with consumers. Through technology advances like 3D scanning and printing we’ve gone from an era of mass customization to individualized customization. We’re now able to add value and meaning to commodity products. Kids are looking for opportunities to engineer their own identities through co-creation of the products that represent them.

A Unified Experience

Millennial moms and dads make up the majority of young parents in the U.S. today. And if you haven’t heard the headlines, they’d rather spend money on experiences over products. Creating a space that entertains both the rents and the runts is critical. Moms and dads who have a place for entertainment that lets them feel guilt free about their fun is a win-win. Imagine manicures with mom, blowouts with besties, or barber cuts with dad. The blend of store and service for both becomes a full-service experience.

Feeding New Culinary Palates

Dylan's Candy Bar
Dylan's Candy Bar

With retailers actively taking a second look at the store experience, everyone from grocers to department stores are looking for a new formula and food is coming up on top. Not just trying to extend the amount of time in-store but looking for thoughtful collaborations that respond to consumers’ lifestyle needs. Whether its healthy fast food, home cooked comfort, an international escape, or an indulgent celebration, today’s little palates are far more sophisticated than they were 10 or 20 years ago. Kids are curious and exposed to a more diverse menu. Basic kid menus of cheeseburgers and fries have shifted towards modified versions of the adult entrees, leaving adults feeling satisfied and kids a little grown up.

Play With Purpose

In many schools, kids today are actively doing homework online and receiving rewards for participating in game-like quizzes, puzzles, and problem-solving. The digital elements have helped to engage these young minds online, presenting an opportunity to enhance in-store. Providing a community space with classes can help build their social, emotional, and intellectual skills, encourage learning beyond academics—helping parents foster an environment for their child’s success.

We may be serious about design but we also know how to play. Check out our work with Dylan’s Candy Bar, Toy Kingdom, and M&M’s World.

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