Is it the right time to open an experiential, socially-distanced toy store?
COVID-19 has made it difficult for people of all ages to socialize safely, including children. A new retailer in Brooklyn is trying to give kids a safe, socially-distanced experience while still letting them have fun in a shared space.
The toy store and play studio, called Toyish Lab, opened in the borough’s Clinton Hill neighborhood earlier this week, according to an AM New York report. The studio is built around playing with the brand’s flagship product, a flexible magnetic toy called Clixio, which can be folded and connected to make creative three-dimensional structures.
The play area features a magnetic wall where kids can hang their completed structures and modular pedestals for individual play. In the interest of safety, visitors must sign a contact-tracing waver, wear masks and practice social distancing at all times. Small-group walk-ins are welcome, but people are encouraged to book in advance.
An engaging, hands-on in-store shopping experience had become an important differentiating factor for retailers up through 2019. Customers had begun to look at physical retailers as places for entertainment that extended beyond the easy purchasing offered by e-commerce. This came to an abrupt halt in March 2020, however, as the novel coronavirus pandemic made in-store shopping potentially dangerous and lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus went into effect.
While playing in groups has fallen off due to social distancing, toy sales have actually increased due to the pandemic, with dollar revenues climbing 16 percent in the first half of 2020.
Social distancing’s impact on both the toy category and events aimed at children has taken on greater significance as the holiday season approaches. For the first time since 1861, the pandemic has led Macy’s to replace in-store Santa appearances and posing sessions with kids with an online experience.
While the state of New York’s COVID-19 rate remains the third lowest in the nation, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University quoted in the New York Daily News, experts warn of pandemic fatigue leading to the relaxation of social distancing and a further spike in cases.
- Come out and play: New toy store and play studio opens in Brooklyn – AM New York
- Will Santa be bringing as many toys this holiday? – RetailWire
- Sorry Virginia, there will be no Santa at Macy’s – RetailWire
- New York COVID hospitalizations climb above 1,500 for first time since June, positivity rate tops 3% – New York Daily News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is now an appropriate time to launch an experiential store for children, as Toyish Lab has done? Do you think the safety proposition is enough of a selling point to get people in the door?