Last summer LEGO made a decision to stop selling their architectural series of LEGO sets to toy stores. They believed that the product didn't belong in toy stores like mine, that it was only appropriate for certain stores. Specifically in their words...
...appropriate distribution channels include the categories of gifts, souvenirs, museums, specialty bookstores, collectibles, art, architecture, tourist and visitor centers, hotel gift shops, transportation centers, college/university union centers, science centers, specialty gift and specialty department stores.
Knowing that I fit under a number of those channels, I sent the following to LEGO.
What Kind of Store Are You?
I am a Science Center - I sell science kits and teach science concepts all the time.
I am a Specialty Bookstore - I sell more children's books than some bookstores in my area sell all their titles combined.
I am a Specialty Gift Store - Most every single sale in my store is a gift for someone
I am a Specialty Department Store - Furniture, baby products, clothing, crafts, science, sporting goods, construction, role play, education are just some of the departments in my store
I am a Tourist Center - Families who come to Jackson, Michigan typically make sure to visit two places - our store and the local ice cream parlor. Over half of our mailing list are people who reside outside of our metro area's zip codes.
I am a Museum - The store has been around for 61 years. We carry many items considered to be "classics" or "historical". Even our building and signs are considered "historical".
I am a Collectibles Store - Hot Wheels, Barbies, Madame Alexander Dolls, Star Wars, GI Joe's, Webkins, Beanie Babies - have there been any hotter collectibles in the past 3 decades?
I am a Transportation Center - I sell wagons, strollers, bikes, trikes, scooters, skateboards and other forms of transportation. I have a river, a railroad, a street, and a walkway adjacent to my property, and many people use my parking lot to access all four.
I am a Souvenir Store - Many of the items I sell are held onto purely for nostalgic reasons.
I am an Architecture Store - I sell many items including books and kits for learning about construction techniques and for building architectural structures from bridges to houses to castles to historical buildings.
I am an Art Store - I sell art supplies. I sell art and decorations.
I am an Education Center - I sell items to teachers and students alike to assist in education such as project kits for school projects (including the exact same items found in science centers), teaching aides, and modeling kits (including clay, wood, metal and plastic materials used for building whatever the teacher requests). I work with preschools, elementary schools, secondary schools and colleges.
I am a Hobby Store - I cater to hobbyists who build models of classic structures such as cars, planes, boats and even buildings.
I am a Toy Store - I sell toys that encourage creativity, toys that spur on the imagination, toys that teach, inspire and help people to grow - yes, people. My toys are for ages 1 to 101. I sell toys for tots, teenagers and twenty-somethings. I sell toys for infants, adolescents, and adults.
I am a LEGO Store - I sell virtually everything LEGO that I can get my hands on because my customers expect me to have those items. They expect me to be able to get them anything from LEGO they want. They expect me to have new and unique LEGO items. They expect me to have off-the-beaten-path LEGO items. They expect me to be current with everything LEGO. They don't care about categories of distribution. They just want to find their LEGO at a store that is convenient, friendly and takes good care of them.
Redefining Your Greatness
Yeah, I probably could have added another dozen definitions - Smile Store, Psychology Center, Daycare, Meeting Center, Problem Solver... What about you? What kind of store are you? Might you be defining your business (your box) too small?
Do this exercise. Using criteria similar to what I did with LEGO, see how many ways you can define your store. You just might find a niche you haven't been using to your advantage.
PS Still waiting to hear their decision - hopefully at Toy Fair next week.