After Toys R Us closed in 2018, many toy manufacturers were left trying to figure out the best way to get their products to consumers. Big box stores like Target and Walmart are still viable options, and Amazon of course, but restocking issues and limited shelf space have altered the reach of some major toy brands like Hasbro and Mattel, and they have begun offering direct-to-consumer (DTC) options for their toys. The added benefit of this new DTC sales approach is exclusivity for consumers and better customer relationships.
Selling Directly To Consumers Appeals To Fandoms And Creates A New Markets For Manufacturers
“If Walmart, Target or Amazon runs out of an item at the end of the year, there’s no way to get it to them that late,” said Basic Fun [maker of Lite Brite] Chief Executive Jay Foreman. “But we don’t want to miss that sale, so if we have merchandise in our own warehouses, that’s [ecommerce] one way to get the product out.”
Hasbro has launched a new ecommerce site called Pulse where consumers can pre-order and directly buy “must have collectibles” like Fortnite blasters and a Ralph Breaks The Internet Fashion Doll Pack. Hasbro’s intention with Pulse is to appeal to the fandom who want to connect with exclusive toys before they go to brick-and-mortar stores or which are only available through Pulse. The brand and partnership portfolio of Hasbro includes heavy hitters like Marvel, Playskool and Monopoly.
Toy Manufacturers Are Also Introducing Memberships Plans To Create Exclusivity
Mattel has created the Mattel Vault, a two-tiered membership opportunity for consumers who want exclusive Mattel merchandise. The Silver Status membership is free and offers savings and access to pre-sales and promotions, while the Gold Status membership is an initial $24.99 fee and comes with an $80 reward for Mattel Vault purchases over the course of the year-long membership. Fun items featured in the Vault include Aquaman and Barbie merchandise, and, through a partnership with San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), collectibles from SDCC normally available only to attendees.
In addition to the previously mentioned ecommerce benefits of Hasbro Pulse, they have also introduced a $50 membership called the Hasbro Pulse Premium. The details are still being finalized, but the membership includes free shipping for the year and access to fan convention perks, advanced notice of new releases, promotions and contests. Monthly subscription services are also growing in popularity for toy manufacturers looking to reach consumers.
Taking Charge Of Sales Allows Manufactures To Build Customer Relationships
By creating new options for consumers to directly buy products, toy manufacturers don’t have to rely on big box stores with limited space and divided loyalties, and they can instead create direct relationships with their consumers. These relationships can include exclusive deals and membership opportunities, or be as simple as creating loyalty by offering toys that may otherwise be difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores. Happy kids, happy parents, repeat customers.