Parents are warned that toys will be in short supply this year due to supply chain issues. “There is going to be a serious shortage of toys this year,” MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian told CNN Business. “The demand is going to be there. What will not be there is the product to meet the demand.
Toy retailers are on the alert, fearing that they will leave many parents and children disappointed this year. However, Camp, described as a “family experience store,” believes this could be his best holiday season ever.
That’s because Camp’s business model isn’t just about selling more toys. It prioritizes creating child-friendly experiences, called “programming” in camp jargon. The purchase of one or more toys is a souvenir to collect and take away from the fun times spent there.
“Camp is more than a retail store,” says Tiffany Markofsky, Camp Co-Founder and Director of Communications. “We combine the game product and the programming for a totally unique family experience. “
The genesis of the Camp concept was the childhood memory of co-founder and CEO Ben Kaufman of buying a much coveted toy. What survived long after it got too big for the toy was the excitement of going out and buying it.
“The toy matters right now, but as time goes by, what you remember goes to the toy store. We designed Camp to restore that excitement by creating memorable moments for children and their parents, ”said Markofsky. “The Camp experience is the thing. This is the gift.
Each of the six Camp stores is divided into two zones. Families enter the street side canteen which serves as a general store for toys, gifts and refreshments. Then behind the canteen is a pivoting wall, called the “magic door”, where the experiments take place, staged and performed by staff called “counselors”.
“It’s a bit like a clandestine bar for children and behind the door our counselors engage with the children and their families by playing music, a magic show or dancing and organize crafts and activities. projects, ”says Markofsky. Some of the retail storytelling themes are Travel Camp, Cooking Camp, Toy Lab Camp, and Base Camp.
“We combine play and product throughout the experience. It’s more about discovering than just presenting products on shelves, ”she continues.
Each store offers a different behind-the-door programming experience with themes transferred to another store after it airs locally. Typically, programming changes quarterly throughout the year.
While the chain’s expansion concept isn’t described as a star model, it does look like it, as five of its stores are in the New York City area. This gives parents the opportunity to have totally different experiences on multiple visits each season. The company’s repeat visit statistics prove it works.
“Since our inception, we have always believed that we would become a national retailer. Our model is based on the idea that we would have multiple locations, ”says Markofsky. She currently has a store in Dallas and will soon be opening one in Los Angeles, suggesting her next hubs.
Another peculiarity of its model is that brands can sponsor activities and activations in its sites. A variety of brands were drawn to this unique opportunity to connect with families, including Mastercard, Walmart, Kroger, Scotts Miracle-Gro and Ally Bank.
Pivot during the pandemic
For a retailer that places so much importance on in-person experiences, the Covid closures have put it back on its heels. The business needed to go virtual quickly, and with Kaufman’s previous experience as Marketing Director at BuzzFeed, the business was ready.
“As a company, we do things quickly. We are constantly experimenting and working to meet the needs of families who have changed so rapidly during the pandemic, ”said Markofsky. “We were there, offering parents one hour a day of free programming for their children. It was really interactive and our sponsors stayed with us as we had our experiences online. The children were glued to their screens.
Camp has also innovated its online shopping experience to make it kid-friendly and safe for children. Parents buy virtual tokens that the child can redeem with an easy-to-remember code when shopping online. Called Present Shop, kids share their ages and interests, and the store has appropriate shopping options.
Once stores started opening, it presented another challenge: how to keep families safe in confined spaces that, before the pandemic, drew crowds. They began to experiment with ticketed time slots where parents could either pre-register for free entry or pay for tickets to pass behind the magic door with the prize redeemable for take-out gifts.
This paid ticket model was first tested for the recently opened Paw Patrol experience at its Dallas store, sponsored by Spin Master. Markofsky reports that attendance reached 15,000 in the first month of opening.
The latest exhibit at his Fifth Avenue store in New York City, called Cosmic Camp, takes an even bigger leap in paid entry. Guests are invited to “go to space”.
It offers families an intergalactic adventure of games and exploration where each family member receives a connected “communicator” for their wrists to track their scores in games. Some of the activities include launching meteorites into black holes, controlling space rovers, jumping through a lava field, and commanding a space station.
Unlike other facilities, Cosmic Camp is a purely fun experience and there are no toys displayed behind the door, although there are plenty of space-themed toys available at the front of the canteen.
“Cosmic Camp is more like an escape room where the family can earn points together,” says Markofsky. “We wanted to give families who are trying to get back to normal something fun to do that wasn’t retail based. And we did it to be fun for all ages, youngsters, tweens, teens and adults, ”she continues, noting that other facilities like Paw Patrol cater to a larger crowd. young.
Just opened last weekend, Cosmic Camp drew crowds. “So far, this is only the beginning, but the great thing is that we are seeing that the two paid experiences are not limiting traffic,” she reports.
Give families something to do, not just buy
In conclusion, Markofsky reports that the company’s revenue has tripled in the past year despite pandemic shutdowns and she is confident that growth will continue at its breakneck pace, especially as she plans to add two additional stores in the northeast over the next few months, with more potential stores on the drawing board.
“We are creating an environment where families can come, share and enjoy. It’s all about creating memorable moments for families, ”she says.
As for what Camp is planning for this holiday shopping season, Markofsky says it’s still too early to tell. But whatever it is, it will be great and an experience families will want to celebrate together. Buying toys will just be the icing on the cake, of which they already have a lot in stock.