Sell “Play Value”
That’s the first line of the business plan my grandfather wrote back in 1949 when he founded Toy House. I found his spiral notebook with the plan while looking for something else in the archives of the store. Page two outlined the possible names for the store including Toy House and House of Toys.
Having written a few business plans over the years, what fascinates me is the simplicity of what he started out to do. He didn’t say he was going to open a retail shop. He didn’t even say he was going to sell toys. He was going to sell something of value—“Play Value.”
In an interview I did with my grandfather a couple years before he passed away I asked him what he thought was the reason for the long success of Toy House. We were about to celebrate our 60th year in business. He said, “I think its because we didn’t set out to be just a toy store. We wanted it to be a store of value. I’ve always sold on the value.”
In a 2005 survey I sanctioned about toy shopping in Jackson, the survey respondents were asked to name the first store that popped into mind when certain words were read. We were mentioned most for words like Friendly and Helpful. Walmart owned Affordable and Cheap. Kmart owned Dark and Dirty. Toys R Us owned Cluttered and Confusing.
The most surprising result from that survey was that we also owned the word Value.
While my competitors were advertising low price, I was talking about Play Value. While my competitors were offering discounts, I was teaching customers how to calculate the True Cost of a Toy (Cost per Hour of Play).
Products come and go. Nothing is exclusive anymore. You’ll never make it in retail if your only calling card is exclusivity of product. You need to be clear on what you are really selling.
Your competitors are going to advertise the heck out of brands and discounts. If you want to stand in stark contrast to them, advertise the Value your customers are buying.
For instance …
- A shoe store customer is really buying health, comfort, or safety
- A clothing store customer is really buying self-esteem, success, or comfort
- A jewelry store customer is really buying love, romance, or gratitude
- A candy store customer is really buying happiness, comfort, or indulgence
- A gift shop customer is really buying nostalgia, relationships, or contentment
- A sporting goods store customer is really buying health, happiness, or even time
What Value are your customers buying?
Does your staff know this? Do you talk about it daily, weekly, monthly? Do you do things to reinforce this ideal?
Do your customers know this? Are you making sure your social media posts, email newsletters, and other advertisements all portray this message?
Here are some radio ads I ran back in 2016 …
Last year, a professor said the toys that are most open-ended and creative are the toys kids play with the longest. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s. Another professor last year said that a toy should be 10% toy and 90% child. My grandfather was saying that back in the 50’s, too. When the professors confirm something you’ve already known, there is only one thing to do… A happy dance. Toy House and Baby Too in downtown Jackson. Come join us in our happy dance.
Real Play Value
Remember that toy your child saw on TV that he begged and pleaded and wore you down until you bought it? Only to find he never played with it again? Quit making that mistake. Anyone can make a toy look good for 30-seconds. Do your child a favor, don’t cave. Get toys with real play value. Your kids will be playing, laughing, and growing. They won’t even turn on the TV. Go to Toy House in downtown Jackson, the largest selection of toys in America. We’ll make you smile, while your kids play
Play is Important
Everyone is talking about education and how to fix it. The answer is easy – Play. Google Play. You’ll get thousands of studies why kids who play more do better in school. Don’t wait for the politicians to figure this out. They don’t win votes stumping for recess. For the greater good of this country and your child, you need interactive, open-ended, creative play. The same kind we’ve been advocating for sixty-seven years. Toy House in downtown Jackson, because Play is actually quite important.
While Target was trying to cram as many brand logos into one TV spot as possible, we were talking about making a difference. Value.
When you make it clear what Value you are selling, you’ll find plenty of customers who want to buy those Values.
PS Does selling Value really work? When we closed shop in 2016, our Market Share was at 16%—far larger than the typical indie toy store, the largest in our market, and the same it had been for several years even as Amazon was growing. It was only the shrinking local market that helped us decide to hang it up.
PPS This “value” is only slightly different than your Core Values. I know the terms can be confusing because of similarity. Think of your Core Values as being the driver behind what you do. Think of the Value you Sell as being the Benefit your customers buy.