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Brief Published: 12 Aug 2019

Four Experiential Toy Stores Betting on Screen-Free Play

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Camp

Shrewd children’s retailers are responding to parents’ increasingly extreme measures to raise screen-free kids by reinventing toy stores as digital-free play clubs promoting tactile creativity. Here are four to watch.

As explained in 10 Youth Trends 2019/20, the educational playthings market is projected to reach $34.5bn by 2022, boosting the return on investment of hands-on, digital-free play clubs with learning bonuses.

  • Camp: The front of New York City toy store Camp is a traditional shop, but a secret door inside unlocks a play zone featuring craft workshops, sing-alongs and kid-friendly yoga (for a fee), among other activities. To keep things fresh, Camp introduces a brand-sponsored theme every few months. US financial services firm Mastercard was the inaugural backer. Families can buy monthly memberships for exclusive workshops, extended play hours and free coffee for adults.

    Parent-friendly services are also key for New York’s subscription-based venue The Wonder, highlighted in Club Together: New Clubs for Like-Minded Consumers. Kids play, parents can work and socialise, and families can attend events.
  • Loot: Brooklyn comic book club Loot targets entrepreneurial kids with classes teaching them how to make comic books. Post-class, they can sell their books via an in-store marketplace, keeping 90% of the cover price. Loot takes 10% as commission. For more on brand-aided entrepreneurialism, see Powering the Brand of Self in our Spotlight Trend Dynamic Youth: Gen Z.

  • Toys R Us: After declaring bankruptcy in 2018, US-based retailer Toys R Us will reopen in November 2019 alongside US tech expo store B8ta, with two locations: Texas and New Jersey. While the chain previously highlighted its extensive toy selection, it will now prioritise in-store experiences including mini cinemas, arcades and STEAM workshops exploring science, technology, engineering, art and maths.

  • Rockets of Awesome: Direct-to-consumer US childrenswear brand Rockets of Awesome’s New York pop-up highlights photo-friendly experiences, like a marshmallow-themed pool and a Velcro wall. It finishes at the end of September 2019. See also URL to IRL: Digital Brands Get Physical.
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