news • Nov 14 2023

Let’s Play: A Toy Store Renaissance is Underway

The winter holiday season is filled with magic. No matter which holiday your family and friends celebrate, it’s a joyful time meant for gathering with the people you love. But it is also a tremendous boon for the retail industry, driving shoppers into storefronts in droves to grab that perfect gift. 

Clearly, the statistics reflect that. According to CNBC, the average American will spend nearly $1,500 on the holidays. In fact, overall holiday spending in 2021 reached a record $889 billion, the same article states. Toy stores are the headquarters of children’s holiday wish lists, and they’re currently undergoing a renaissance. Not only are new stores popping up across the country, but they’re embracing a more significant mission that deeply considers the power of the toys our children spend their time with. 

Many experts are saying that a reason the toy industry is experiencing a boom is the ability of toys to create joy for children who had a difficult period during the pandemic. MESH toys– or mental, emotional, and social health toys–  teach kids “skills like how to adjust to new challenges, resolve conflict, advocate for themselves, or solve problems.” This is a wonderful opportunity for the toy industry to embrace something that benefits children in a variety of ways. 

Here’s a look at how several toy companies are taking their endeavors to the next level.  


The Return of the Classics: Toys R Us

Many of us remember the classic jingle “I’m a Toys R’ Us kid.” Accompanied by the beloved character Geoffrey the Giraffe, Toys R’ Us was a notorious childhood destination filled with hopes and dreams. However, the company struggled significantly in recent years, closing its remaining US stores in 2018. Despite this, the time has come for the return of Toys R’ Us, but with a twist. 

With several new flagship stores in the works, Toys R’ Us will eschew the traditional spot in the shopping mall and adapt to the growing demand for toys stores in untraditional locations. 

For example, they’ll expand into cruise ships and airports, according to the New York Times. Since statistics show that people tend to spend more money on vacation, Toys R’ Us is wisely tapping into the travel industry, using it as a tool to create a more stable future for the company’s next generation. As each customer experiences their ocean cruise or journey throughout the airport, Toys R’ Us is embracing the tools of experiential marketing, and introducing a whole new element of fun and excitement.


DTC goes Brick and Mortar: Melissa and Doug

While classics like Toys R’ Us are on their way back into the retail stratosphere, there are also newer brands that are rapidly expanding. 

Melissa and Doug, an incredibly popular preschool brand that specializes in wooden and sustainable toys, is opening its first retail store. But this isn’t just an endeavor without significant backing. In fact, the direct-to-consumer company just sold for $1.1 billion. By embracing the demand for sustainable children’s products, the company is tapping into a rapidly-expanding niche. This indicates several important changes in the retail market, with the most significant being that buyers are eager to embrace sustainability, and will put their hard-earned money toward products that reflect that.


Experiencing Marketing for Kids: Trolls Band Together

From the days of “Sesame Street Live,” seeing their favorite characters come to life has been a wonderful memory for children. With the incredible advancements in technology over the years since then, DreamWorks Animation is teaming up with CAMP, a shop/play hybrid experience with locations across the country. Inside CAMP stores, rotating theme experiences allow children to step inside the worlds of their favorite shows, like Bluey and Paw Patrol

By teaming up with Dreamworks, the companies will create “an immersive musical adventure and retail experience” celebrating the release of Trolls Band Together, based on the beloved films inspired by the toys. Set to take place on Friday, November 17 (the same day the animated sequel opens in theaters everywhere) the experience will integrate video and photo with tangible activities. Described as an “interactive video game,” families can enter the 4,500-square-foot that’s dedicated to Trolls and meet characters, dress up, and enjoy themselves. 

A wonderful example of the power of experiential marketing, the Trolls brand is forging strong personal connections with its audience members, the majority of which will be children and their family members. It’s a testament to the power of how immersive experiences are the future of the retail world. 


In a tumultuous period, toys provide children comfort. With the rise of MESH toys, kids are receiving an added dose of mental and social skills. It’s a worthwhile testament to the power of fun, and how the toy industry can be a partner that forges strong connections with children. Through the examples of Trolls, Toys R’ Us, and Melissa and Doug, we’re seeing how the companies that embrace the capabilities of experiential marketing are likely to be the ones that thrive in the future. 

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