Saturday, August 1, 2009

KB Toys: definitely not child's play

Later this week, the intellectual property of KB Toys, which filed for Chapter 11 last December, comes up for auction. Up for grabs are the KB Toys brand name, 14 other KB Toys-related trademarks and more than 65 URLs and house brands. According to Streambank, the intellectual property consulting firm, the KB Toys brand "offers a wealth of opportunities." If you found yourself the new owner of KB Toys, what would you do to revitalize and relaunch the brand? Post your comments below and let us know.


  1. That's a tall order requiring a l lot more than a simple comment... me thinks.

  2. Nick - I agree it's a tough one. We've seen a number of retailers emerge from Chapter 11 to become web-only stores - think Linens 'n' Things and Sharper Image to name a couple. Could that be the answer for KB Toys? Or could they follow in FAO Schwartz's footsteps and open a limited number of stores where the emphasis is just as much on the experience as it is on the merchandise? Could they capitalize on the recent scare about the quality of toys coming from China, and sell toys only made in the US or Europe? Just a few thoughts and suggestions here to get the conversation going - would love to hear what you think.

  3. A new brick-and-mortar toy store would have to be much more about the experience than the products themselves. A standard toy store isn't going to be able to compete against Toys R Us, Walmart and Target. I just don't see the world clamoring for yet another toy store.

    What about them becoming a hybrid store/children's entertainment establishment? A better Chuck E. Cheese where kids can come play, have birthday parties, etc., and also get their toys.

  4. emel goker8/03/2009

    From flagship toy retailers like Hemleys in London to the one in the nearest mall, the merchandise is more or less the same. There's always the possibility to go niche (educational/theme oriented/material oriented, etc.) but it requires unique design/production capabilities. Therefore I would also go for an experience centre: carry mass brands but allocate almost half of the space for activities, outsource/collaborate with brands and institutions to organize workshops, trainings, events, etc. I would also have a section within the store where kids can sell their used toys.
    I also think it’s very hard for parents to find a "real" kid friendly restaurant when shopping (wouldn't it be great if someone took care of your two year old for 10 min while you grab a bite). So my second initiative would be opening restaurants with play corners: K*B Bites. Food would be all finger sized with healthy and naughty alternatives (Ben10 cookies?) made to please kids & parents. These restaurants can also host birthday parties.

  5. I’d start by clearing the stock out – it looks like it’s a dated overcrowded toy shop selling a lot of crap. I’d partner up with a charity, create a “Give back to the community day” around every store, and have a kids party day in each community – give away the stock, have 3 legged races, egg and spoon etc, create loads of PR before, during and after – get the name back out there, and start on a positive note.

    It wouldn’t cost much to create the days, your only losses would be loss of old stock, which would have been hard to shift anyway. The goodwill and buzz created will give you ROI, then when you reopen have the focus on staff.

    Hamley’s is so good, because everyone in there is having so much fun playing with all the toys! Hire teens who are great with kids, or uni students studying to be teachers, who will be willing to invest their time and work for less for the experience. Also provide a personal shopper service – they can even dress up as fairies or pirates or whatever a child wants them to be, then they get given a budget by the parents, and spend half a day or an hour etc, taking care of the kids while the parents get some respite. Toyshops should be magical places; the experience is where the focus should be.

  6. I'd probably start looking for another job. Having been a brand manager for a toy distributor I know how hard it is for both mom & pop toy stores and even larger specialists like toys'r'us to survive in this onslaught.

    The problem with KB Toys and other specialist toy stores like it is that they really can't compete with the Walmart's and KMart's of the world who have mega buying power and purposely drive down margins (sometimes to take a loss) on toy product to get those key grocery buyers in store. People might go into an experiential store or niche store to browse and take advantage of the wonderful information that the specialist can give but more often than not they then walk out and buy it at Target.

    Maybe KB toys could be resurrected if they went completely digital and just had a few showcase stores in key locations to show the latest, greatest and weirdest or even a toy museum, collectors type thing.

    I too lament over the loss of the toy store experience and the magic that the previous contributor mentioned but I'm afraid the virtual world is the modern kids playground. Its sad but true and I'm doubtful that a brand like KB toys can change that.

  7. Anonymous8/06/2009

    Make it the 360 of Toys-R-Us. Stock educational and creative toys that make kids use their imaginations; stop pushing Disney, Nikolodean and other TV themed products. A lot of new parents are boycotting these items, and it would be a great time to get on the bandwagon that is building. A selection of eco-friendly/locally made toys would be nice as well. We need to stop pushing off throw-aways onto our youth; how many plastic toys from China are ending up in our dumps?

  8. Anonymous8/06/2009

    Obviously I meant a 180 of ToysRUs :)

  9. UPDATE: CE Stores, a retail operator "won" today's auction with bid of $2.1 million for all of KB Toys' intellectual property. Thanks to all for posting some really interesting ideas - let's hope that the new owners pay attention to your words of wisdom!

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