Less toys – more playing!

Marika Saari considers that by leveraging the principles of the Experience Economy, brick-and-mortar toy stores can create a unique and memorable shopping experience. A good toy store not only offers a range of toys to purchase but also provides an immersive experience that encourages store guests to engage and experiment with the products.

a kid with multicolored hand paint
News article


Events for children and families
A recent Master's thesis in the Experience Economy and Designing Services specialisation area titled “Staging experiences in a toy store” discovered that parents welcome many kinds of events organized around toys and playing at a brick-and-mortar toy store, and they're willing to pay for them. They view a toy store as an ideal place to spend time with their child, or for them to attend an event together. Such events include themed play sessions, magician shows, science days, clubs with different themes, dressing up parties, and seasonal parties like Halloween. Such events create an enjoyable atmosphere for children to explore without their parents or together, and they are likely to encourage repeat visits.

The principles of the Experience Economy can be implemented in a toy store to create a memorable experience for children and their families. The store could offer a chargeable, supervised play area where parents can leave their kids to play, and a play area for them to explore alongside their parents. There could also be organized play sessions to join, a team member to welcome new arrivals, entertainment, and toys to experiment with. Additionally, workshops could be offered where children can learn how to build something or make something from scratch in a safe and secure environment. This could also be a great opportunity for children to be entertained, make friends, learn new skills and enjoy themselves.

The events organized must meet the expectations of both children and parents. Children should have a great time in the toy store, and parents should feel that the experience is worth the money and time – time well spend.

Ingredients of a good toy store
The thesis found that a good toy store is spacious, yet not overly large. It values sustainability, nature, and the wellbeing of children, and its selection of toys reflects this. The store is fun and has a great vibe. Toys are attractively displayed and the store is decorated accordingly. For example, there may be built toys on display, and unwrapped toys that parents and children can touch and try. By allowing children to touch the toys, parents can get a better idea of what their child is interested in, thus making the purchase decision easier.

A toy store should offer services, such as organized birthday parties and membership programs. Birthday parties should include at least activities and a cake. The chargeable membership should include more than just toys, such as books, some of the services, and discounts. Additionally, the thesis found that parents see a lending service for expensive, seasonal, and large toys as appropriated. Furthermore, a system to resell and recycle used toys could help store guests to save money while being environmentally friendly.

Previous research has indicated that consumers, such as millennial parents, tend to prefer investing in real-life experiences, such as attending live events, over buying things (Euromonitor International 2019; 2022a; 2022b; Pressat 2014; Eventbrite 2017). This is because experiences often provide a more fulfilling sensation than an item of equal value. Additionally, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is a contributing factor, as events and experiences are often shared on social media. As such, toy stores have a great opportunity to create family-friendly events during the weekend, offering activities and games that parents and children can enjoy together as a shared experience.

Creators of experiences around toys and play can offer a unique opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves from their competitors and create experiences around toys to increase loyalty whilst generating additional revenue. For sure, the principles of the Experience Economy can be applied to other types of businesses targeting families with children.

Contact information: Marika Saari, saarimarika(at)hotmail.com

Euromonitor International (2019). Key growth trends for retailing in Western Europe. Passport. Accessed: 17 September 2022.
Euromonitor International (2022a). Voice of the consumer: Lifestyles Survey 2022: Key Insights. Passport. Accessed: 17 September 2022.
Euromonitor International (2022b). Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2022: Expert opinions and trend manifestation. Accessed: 17 September 2022.
Eventbrite (2017). New Data on Millennials Reveals What Draws Them to Events. Accessed: 1 September 2022.
Pressat (2014). UK study reveals millennials want experiences, not possessions. Accessed: 3.9.2022.

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