Toy retail merchandising: appeal to children and sell to parents

global retail
  • Dec 9, 2022
  • 12 min read
Cover: Toy retail merchandising: appeal to children and sell to parents

Emotions play a significant role in purchasing in the children’s toy market – much more than in many other product groups. Your ability to create a positive atmosphere and experience in the store and skillfully manage the impulses of young and adult buyers, with the help of a well-designed display of goods, is one of the keys to successful sales and loyal customers.

Today's blog is dedicated to recommendations and features of merchandising in toy stores.

Target audiences and a toy store space organization 

As a store manager, you should be ready to demonstrate the product and address different target audiences. This is important because the types of purchases and, therefore, the behavior and needs of customers can vary. It all depends on who initiates the purchase.

Let's consider the possible options and what the retailer should pay attention to in each of them.

  • Adults are the initiators of the purchase

As a rule, in this case, we are talking about a gift to a child for some holiday (birthday, Christmas, important date). Such a purchase is mostly planned and not cheap. Therefore, the retailer's task is to help the buyer find the right product quickly and get all the necessary information and additional services (wrapping, accessories, etc.). Consider that parents usually choose children's toys or gifts, as well as educational or traditional games, paying more attention to their quality, safety and utility. 

  • The purchase is made jointly by an adult(s) and a child

Children are more attracted to novelty toys because they’re driven by emotion and tactile contact. Here, visual merchandising, an atmosphere of fun, magic and celebration come to the fore. If you succeed in capturing the child's attention, you need to influence the parents to buy what they want. From our experience, the following are key factors that influence parents to make a purchase decision: 

  • Availability of necessary information about the product.
  • Accurate price tags.
  • The willingness of store staff to help or advise parents.
  • Informing about promotional offers.
  • Friendly service: chat with children, offer them to try their future toy here and now.

Numerous studies show that attractive packaging and the opportunity to play with toys greatly influence children's choices. The easiest way to attract children's attention is bright colors and cartoon characters. Therefore, if there is enough space, create zones on the sales floor where children can play; hold contests and educational activities with prizes there. All this is a positive experience for children and a compelling incentive for parents to make a purchase to keep the child happy. Play areas should be decorated with products thematically related to a particular cartoon or toy collection.

World trends recommend treating a child as a full-fledged client while focusing on positive children's emotions and a sense of wonder. A new generation of families (Gen Z) is actively giving children more of a say in purchasing decisions. Appealing to both kids and parents is key to toy retail success.

  • Toys are not the primary purchase at family shopping 

During family shopping, parents often encounter children's "I want!" and "Give it!" More than 40% of parents say their children's nagging gets the better of them regularly, and they buy them what they want to quiet them down and reduce stress. For this reason, retailers position these items as impulse purchases.

In our experience, the most significant number of impulse purchases in a toy store is made in two areas – the front of the store, when the customer's hands are empty, and near the cash register. According to statistics, about 42% of goods selected at the beginning of the journey through the sales floor are impulse purchases. This is because children have a lower attention span and are more easily distracted. Take advantage of this initial enthusiasm and the peculiarities of children's perceptions. Lay out more expensive positions at the beginning of a family’s shopping and more affordable ones at the end of the sales floor. 

Place low-cost “impulse” products at the cash register for customers who are tired of thinking and making decisions. Make it easy for them to buy something before they leave:  small and bright toys should prevail here.

Make everything as easy as possible for the customer — from inspecting the toy to picking it up and interacting with it. This is especially true for soft toys and boxed goods, such as games and interactive toys. 

Recent studies show that 74% (almost ¾!) of impulse purchases occur due to viewing and attracting attention rather than searching for a specific product.

Use original techniques to attract and “hold” attention, in particular, thematic and brand zones, colors, and signs. 

If there is no affordance, that is, a small gap that shows that the game/toy can be picked up, it will be viewed and chosen significantly less. Also, turn the package at a slight angle so that the product hangs a little from the shelf. When using this technique, carefully monitor the accuracy and safety of the layout.

  • Children buy independently with pocket money

The area near the cash registers, as well as low-cost promotional offers, is an excellent option for another category of your customers – children who can drop in at a store after school to buy something with saved pocket money.

Competent presentation is the basis of merchandising and allows you to increase the share of impulsive purchases of toys. 

In general, you should define and know the demographic of your customers. After all, it can vary depending on the location and size of your store. If it's a small shop near a neighborhood school, your customers will be primarily schoolchildren with a small budget, such as an allowance. If you’re in a large shopping center, you will also be visited by those looking for expensive branded toys. Plan and manage inventory and display with these features in mind.

General rules for displaying goods in a toy store

The main task of the display is to present your assortment as effectively as possible for your chain, skillfully using the psychological aspects of the buyer's behavior. Your customer should find their way around the store as easily as possible. Therefore, the assortment is divided into categories bound to the navigation, after which it is sorted by priority and laid out on the shelves. 

The rest of the rules for laying out toys are similar to many other goods and stores. However, you must always remember that you deal with children.

1. Ensure safety and cleanliness because it is about children's health. 

What aspects should be given special constant attention?

  • All display equipment at the point of sale must be reliable;
  • Shelves - securely fixed, without sharp corners and glass or fragile elements;
  • Display - hygienic and injury-proof;
  • For small parts - secure packaging
  • Heavy toys should be placed on the lower shelves to avoid falling and possibly injuring or scaring the smallest visitors; 
  • Play areas, if there are any, should be cleaned and well-kept, and the toys in them should correspond to the age category of children; 
  • It is better to move and replenish stock on the shelves during non-working hours or when no minor children are in the store.

2. Categorize the product by characteristic features:

  • Types and purpose of toys (dolls, soft toys, machines and equipment, constructors, interactive, board games, etc., depending on your assortment)
  • Age and/or gender. It should be noted that in recent years the gender factor has become less applicable. However, the organization of the display according to age is widely used in those stores where a wide range of a specific product category is presented or this category is dominant, as well as in brand areas and the case when your store has some specialization (for example, puzzles).

When laying out products in a toy store according to a child’s age, remember the key rule: Eye-level - purchase level! Out of sight is out of attention, so place your toys at the right height for kids or parents. That is, necessarily take into account the height of children of a certain age.

  • Promotional products, bright novelties and collectible selections. These goods should be displayed outside the main display because children pay attention to such merchandisers’ "reception". 
  • Thematic areas. These are widely used and "work" in toy sales because children are primarily visual. Therefore, cooperate with manufacturers and suppliers; receive POS equipment and materials from them on various topics – hit cartoons, superheroes, new collections of figurines, etc.

3. Do not forget about cross-merchandising, i.e. offering goods related to the main one next to it: dolls and their accessories, batteries for radio-controlled cars, accompanying merch (clothes, stationery, coloring books) next to toys-characters of cartoons.

Display your most popular and newest products prominently to attract customers. Capitalize on early enthusiasm by placing your premium toys on the first stands customers see. 

4. Check by labeling

As the vast majority of toy store inventory has low turnover, you can track the effectiveness of a particular technique, layout method, or experiment. We advise you to do this by marking the product, provided it is displayed on different types of equipment, so you can track from which equipment a particular item was sold. Thus, you can monitor whether the goods for which promotional equipment was allocated or a figure display was made are selling better.

5. Create planograms

Planograms are a tool for increasing sales in the chain and an explicit instruction from the central office for points of sale. Creating a planogram considering only the visual aspects of the layout is a loss of potential sales. Ideally, a planogram should be created taking into account data on sales, profitability, current balances and other indicators that are important for your chain. 

Moreover, planograms will help you unify the layout in different store formats and simplify work with its optimization. 

6. Avoid empty shelves

Toy stores are characterized by small size or a complete lack of storage space. Therefore, the display is often created considering the product stock. This is a challenge for planogram managers because it is necessary to form the layout so that the shelves are not empty until the next delivery. If the product runs out before its delivery, the planogram managers must quickly deliver alternative products that will work to improve the efficiency of the equipment.

Shelves designed and filled based on sales data analysis will help you sell more toys. However, do not confuse the concepts of full and overflowing. Get the balance right.

Others' behavior strongly influences people. Children also have the desire to imitate, to have the same or a better toy than a friend, classmate, etc. Periodically, there is a trend for a particular toy or gadget, which provokes hyped demand. Such an unexpected surge or certain problems with suppliers can leave you without a sufficient supply of toys that are fashionable and needed immediately. However, you can skillfully turn such a situation to your advantage. Tell customers (preferably creatively) that the reason for the empty shelf is high demand for the product, and be ready to offer an alternative from the available assortment. Such alternative goods will be considered more desirable. Parents are more likely to buy a toy if a similar product is already sold out. However, don't misuse this technique leaving too many gaps on your store shelves.

Automation, analytics, accuracy - the three A's guarding the effectiveness of your merchandising

As you can see, there are many issues and aspects of toy display management, both general and specific. Software solutions will help manage them all on the basis of analytics and modern technological algorithms. We created Leafio Shelf Efficiency and are constantly improving the solution taking into account the real practical experience of our customers from various fields, including the toy market.

Leafio Shelf Efficiency can and will help you:

  • Zone shelves by a selected feature or a combination of features – by gender, subject, age, brand, and other indicators. The created zones can be automatically filled according to the parameters you need, and you can apply sorting by ABC indicators, sales, stocks, promotions, etc., to them. 
  • Implement the function of auto-facing – automatic display of a certain number of facings of selected goods on the shelves.
  • Analyze the display and its impact on sales and other vital parameters; make appropriate adjustments. Children's products are characterized by low turnover, compared to food retail, for example. Therefore, the period for the analysis needs to be longer. Using this tool will help you distinguish how effective your merchandising is and how it is possible to improve the chain’s overall performance.

Above, we have already considered labeling as one of the analysis tools in conditions of low turnover of toys. Automation of analytics will allow you to collect more extensive data sets, so the analysis itself will be of higher quality, with less influence of the human factor.

  • Create a display taking into account the current stock.
  • Monitor the accuracy and correctness of the display, as well as the presence of goods on the shelves. It is possible to implement this by communicating with store employees through a mobile application. You set a task, and employees send you a photo of the result. You will be sure that the layout is created according to your planograms and is also neat and safe for buyers.

With the help of the mobile application, you can also monitor the relevance of the layout and receive up-to-date information about the dimensions of the products, their photos, prices, etc.


Create, analyze, and optimize planograms efficiently


Managing the merchandising of a toy store is a complex but exciting challenge for a retailer. After all, the benefit of overcoming it is not only profits but also the happy faces of your little customers and their parents. For more than 15 years, we at LEAFIO have been helping retail chains build not only efficient business processes but also provide the best service and satisfaction for our customers.

Together we will take the merchandising of your toy store or chain of stores to a new level.

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