Toy Retailing in Canada…….
Despite last month’s filing for bankruptcy protection and store closings by one of the largest toy retailers worldwide, according to IBIS World, over the five years to 2017, the toy and hobby retail industry has rebounded significantly in line with the strengthening economy. Rising disposable income has bolstered the industry performance, led by continued growth in consumer confidence and disposable incomes. Industry predictions cite a likely increase in the next five years to 2022.
Changes in the retail landscape will potentially make room for smaller toy retailers to expand and service clientele across the country.
With this in mind we are focusing on a sampling of Toy Retailers in Canada that have room to grow. If you know of any ones that are not mentioned here, let us know!
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's & Lost Marbles
With three locations in Ontario’s Ottawa region, since 1977, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's has been providing a wide selection of quality toys and games. The initial location and flagship store is on Bank St. in the Glebe shopping district. The stores are stocked with toys and games that are designed for play and for learning. The retailer specializes in old favourites and collectibles as well as the latest trends. Some of the brands carried include LEGO, Alex Toys, Calico Critters, Corolle Dolls, Playmobil and Thomas Wooden Railway. The stores also encourage testing or playing with toys before purchase to maximize customer satisfaction of products. The company also includes an on-line component for convenient at-home shopping. Another ‘department’ in the stores is Lost Marbles that features novelties, collectables, tech toys, pop culture, etc. targeting an older clientele. The stores are located in shopping malls and street front spots at approximately 2500 square feet.
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle's - G-75 Breezehill Avenue North, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 2H6 (613/523-3663
Mind Games is a retail toy and games concept with five Ontario locations, four in British Columbia, one in Alberta as well as about six sites in the U.S. The corporately owned chain specializes in board games, books, educational toys, puzzles and more from well-known brands such as Cranium, DC Unlimited, Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, Radica and Spin Master. Also offered are online ordering and special store features such as the 'Puzzle Club' that allows clients to save ten percent on every puzzle purchased. The retailer has recently upgraded their online platform for additional convenient shopping with global shipping. The typical site selections are in malls at around 2000 square feet.
Mind Games - 606 Gordon Baker Road, Toronto, Ontario, M2H 3B4 (416/977-7478 www.mindgames.ca)
Boutique Le Tambourin Inc.
Boutique Le Tambourin is a games, toys and hobby supply retailer that first openend in Place Longueuil in Montreal’s South Shore region in 1966. The founders were entrepreneurs Rémi Lépine and Madeleine Demers-Lépine, who previously had owned a sports store. By the 1980s, their son Luc Lépine had taken over the family business and he began to open more locations with an eye on expansion in the province. Boutique Le Tambourin now has five locations in the greater Montreal/Laval area. In addition to toys and games, there is also has a large array of radio/remote controlled toys, parts and accessories. Ideal sites for the retailer are in shopping centres at around 500 square feet.
Le Tambourin Inc. – 3600, Local B, Matte Blvd., Quebec, J4Y 2Z2 (450/461-1364 www.letambourin.com)
Based in Quebec, Univers Toutou features a unique concept, that of 'the creation of a new friend'. The concept invites clients into the store and choosing materials and accessories to create their own plush toy. The client, with the help of staff, then proceeds to actually stuff their toy animal or character on site. The toys are issued passports that include a 'date of birth' and a picture of the new stuffed friend with the client. Popular as an interactive retail activity with parents and children alike, the store also offers clothing and accessories for the plush toys. First opened in the Mont-Tremblant resort in Quebec in 2004, the retailer presently has three retail locations. Sites are typically in shopping centres and street front locations at around 2500 square feet.
Univers Toutou - 675 Cusson Crescent, St-Bruno, Quebec, J3V 6G1 (450/482-1131 www.universtoutou.com)
Turtle Pond Toys
Turtle Pond Toys is an independent toy retailer developed and owned by Ingrid and Jon Zemitis. Ingrid and two friends started the business in 1988 with one independent store in Dundas in Southern Ontario. The company now have two stores in the province, in Niagara Falls as well as Dundas’s University Plaza. Turtle Pond Toys offers quality games, plush toys, books and novelties for all ages, including adults. The emphasis is on safety of items first, as well as durability and there are low priced lines of toys for parents on a tight budget. Brands that can be found at the locations include LEGO, Playmobil, Schleich animals, Ravensburger puzzles, Corolle dolls, Melissa and Doug, Gund, Folkmanis, Calico Critters, Alex, Lamaze, Cloud B and Mayfair Games, to name only a few. Preferred sites are generally in shopping centres and strip plazas in the 2000 square foot range.
Turtle Pond Toys - University Plaza, 80 Plaza Drive, Dundas, Ontario, L9H 4H4 (905/627-8909 www.turtlepondtoys.ca)
With over 60 locations operating, Mastermind Toys is Canada’s largest specialty toy and children’s books retailer. In business over 30 years, Mastermind Toys was founded by brothers Andy and Jon Levy who wanted to offer shoppers a classic toy store experience. Both in-store and online, Mastermind Toys offers a curated selection of more than 10,000 specialty toys, games, arts and crafts, science kits, construction sets, puzzles and books including first-to-market and exclusive items at a variety of price points. The company seeks inspiring, engaging and unusual merchandise such as lifelike Hansa plush animals, fashion-forward Our Generation dolls, Moonlite Storytime Projector, Creativity for Kids craft kits as well as top global brands like LEGO, Hape, Ravensburger, 4M, PLAYMOBIL and Meccano. Since 2011, Mastermind Toys has opened 53 new toy stores, expanding from its origins in the greater Toronto area. By the end of 2018, the Canadian-owned and operated company expects to have approximately 70 stores across Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland. Preferred sites include high traffic, freestanding street fronts, shopping and power centres, as well as strip plazas in the 3500 to 5000 square foot range located in family communities. In addition to opening new stores, the company completely revamped its website last year in order to enhance customers’ shopping experience.
Mastermind Toys – 415 Milner Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M1B 2L1 (416/321-8984 www.mastermindtoys.com)
Hodge Podge Toys
Hodge Podge Toys is a specialty toy concept that is unique in that it deals only in toys and accessories that are battery-free, eco-friendly, organic, educational and above all, fun. The store also includes some children’s clothing and accessories. The toys are from various European, American and Canadian companies. Toy lines that can be found in-house include Paola Reina Dolls made in Spain, California-made skateboards, Joki Indoor/Outdoor Nests from Germany, etc. Based in Unionville in Ontario, Shafina Hayat first introduced the concept at the local Unionville Festival in June 2015 and the permanent location has been operating until recently on Main St. in Unionville. The new location is now on Karl Fraser Rd. in Toronto.
Hodge Podge Toys, 29 Karl Fraser Road, Toronto, Ontario M3C O6E (647/350-6499 www.hodgepodgetoy.toys)
Castle Toys is a one-of toy store in South Calgary, just east of Chinook Centre. Formerly known as Teach R Toys, it has been operating for over 30 years and offers a wide selection of toys, games, puzzles and more within the store and also on-line. Owners Dick and Joanne Chute, originally teachers, decided to follow in the direction of their mutual dream of running a toy store. Their background in education enhanced their desire to include innovative toys that teach kids while they play. Aside from carrying many brands not necessarily found in big box stores, well known brands such as Playmobil, Breyer, Thomas the Tank Engine, Schleich, and Brio are offered. The 3000 square foot site also supplies gift bags to corporate clients and for parties, with hand sewn bags included for a more personal touch.
Castle Toys - 101-5718 1A Street SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2H 0E8 (403/258-1100 www.castletoys.ca)
Toys Toys Toys
With a unit opening in Oshawa Centre in Oshawa shortly, Toys Toys Toys has eight locations in the greater Toronto area. And the chain prides itself on being ahead of the toy trends on the horizon. The family-operated retailer was established in 1992 and has carried popular items such as Beanie Babies, Tamagotchis, Tickle Me Elmo and Minions, among others. Known for carrying a huge selection even though most locations are not that large compared to other toy stores, they are known as the go-to stores if one is hunting down hard-to-find merchandise in the Toronto region. Extra services include free gift wrapping year-round. The company has also been experimenting with Toys Cubed pop-up stores in various locations. Sizes are in the neighbourhood of 1500 square feet in primarily shopping centres.
Toys Toys Toys – 107 Saint Regis Crescent South, Toronto, Ontario, M3Y 1Y6 (416/630-1655 www.toyscubed.com)
A popular local toy store concept in the Vancouver area, Kaboodles has three stores in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland area and one in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Owner Lee Richmond introduced the neighbourhood store in 1980 as a boutique selling children's clothing and bedding and eventually the focus shifted to games and toys. The stores carry children's books, games, toys and puzzles for a range of ages, from infants to teens. The stores have many of the more popular brands but also seek out unique items that are not commonly found everywhere. Services include gift wrapping, balloon bouquets and ten percent discounts for teachers purchasing classroom items. Site types include shopping centres at around 700 square feet and street fronts at around 2600 square feet.
Kaboodles - 4449 10 Avenue West, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6R 2H8 (604/224-5311 www.kaboodlestoystore.com)
Hobby and Toy Central
With its four locations within South West Ontario, Hobby and Toy Central’s mission is to ‘provide quality toys that inspire creativity’. Initially on the manufacturer/distribution side of the hoppy industry, Owner Cheryl Flood opened her own retail store in 1990. Today, Hobby and Toy Central offers a large selection of material for hobbyists, educational as well as fun games and toys for children of all ages, puzzles, books, arts and crafts supplies. Based on Kitchener, there are stores in London, Kitchener, Burlington and the most recent opened last year at Heartland Town Centre in Mississauga. While there are no current plans for expansion, the company does keep an eye open for prime opportunities. The preferred locations include shopping and power centres and strip plazas ranging from approximately 3400 to 5000 square feet.
Hobby and Toy Central - 1-4500 King Street East, Kitchener, Ontario, N2P 2G4 (519/650-3200 www.hobbyandtoycentral.com)
The Scholar's Choice we know today began all the way back in 1939 as Jack Hood School Supplies. The company’s name soon changed to Scholar’s Choice to reflect the breadth of educational products they carry. The business has been a Webster family passion since the late 1960s when Bill Webster started his career with the company, and now his son Scott and his wife Cindy have taken over. Scholar’s Choice sells educational toys and games, arts and crafts materials, and teacher resources to parents, teachers, grandparents, and childcare centres. The retailer operates 19 retail locations across Canada and is one of the largest distributors of educational toys and teaching materials in the country. Retail site preferences lean toward shopping centres, strip plazas, and freestanding street front locations at around 2500 square feet in size.
Scholar's Choice - 2323 Trafalgar Street, P.O. Box 7214, London, Ontario, N5Y 5S7 (519/453-7470 www.scholarschoice.ca)
The privately held Lego Canada Inc. has about ten stores across Canada, in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. Still family owned almost 80 years later, the global retailer specializes in the manufacturing of the iconic LEGO toy blocks and craft building materials and LEGO accessories. The company philosophy is stated as 'learning and development through play'. Originating in Denmark in 1932, Ole Kirk Kristiansen began his family's journey into the toy business by making wooden toys in his shop. LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words that mean 'play well'. Ideal store locations are usually in shopping centres at about 3000 square feet.
Lego Canada Inc. - Unit 7, 45 Mural Street, Richmond Hill, Ontario, L4B 1J4 (905/764-5346 www.lego.com)
Tour de Jeux & Divertioz
Montreal based Tour de Jeux specializes in a large variety of puzzles, toys, chess sets and more, for both adults and children alike. Many brands are carried such as Matel, Parker Brothers, Fantasy Flight Games, Mayfair, Games, Filosofia, Days of Wonder, Ravensburger and much more. The retail toy store was started up by Michael Akkibrityan and now has three locations in the Montreal area, one of which is under the Divertioz banner. What started out as a hobby grew into a successful operation that reorganized in 2008 grew since then. The existing sites are all located in shopping centres.
Divertioz - Complexe Desjardins, 150 St-Catherine Street West, Montreal, Quebec, H2X 3Y2 (514/284-5389 www.divertioz.com)
The Disney Store offers the widest selection of authentic Disney merchandise available. Items include Disney toys, clothing, collectables and much more. The first Disney Store opened in the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California on March 28, 1987. Today the retail chain has more than 340 sites throughout the globe. In 2017 the company had begun revamping its store experience to keep its bricks and mortar locations relevant in the on-line shopping age. Beginning with one of its locations in Los Angeles, some changes included movie-theatre-size screens, a simplified floor plan, white walls and more items for fashion-conscious adults. Always a focus for children, the plan is now to reach out to a wider, more adult audience to expand its market. There are about nine Disney stores in Canada in shopping malls at about 4500 square feet in size.
The Walt Disney Company – MC 635B, P.O. Box 3232, Anaheim, California, U.S. A. 92803 (866/902-2798 www.shopdisney.com)
Toys ‘R’ Us
Despite filing for bankruptcy protection in September 2017 and announcing the closure of its U.K and U.S. stores, Toys ‘R’ Us Canada, which operates independent of the U.S. operations, is not at this time closing any of its units. The Toys ‘R’ Us brand, usually coupled with Babies ‘R’ Us, is an international toy store that carries a huge inventory of games, gadgets and toys for infants and children of all ages. Charles Lazarus developed the initial concept in Washington, D.C. in 1948 which began as a baby furniture retail store. By 1957 the focus of the store changed to offering toys due to a demand for the merchandise, thus giving birth to what we know today as Toys ‘R’ Us. In 1984 the retailer began major expansion and opened its first store in Canada, which now numbers over 80 across the country. The chain carries most major brands such as Crayola, Leap Frog, Play-Doh, Playmobil and many more. The sites are usually placed in free standing street front, shopping and power centres and strip plazas in at least 45,000 square foot spaces.
Toys "R" Us (Canada) Ltd. - 2777 Langstaff Road, Concord, Ontario, L4K 4M5 (905/660-2000 www.toysrus.ca)
As we prepare this report on the various toy chains in Canada, we learned that Isaac Larian, the Founder and CEO of MGA Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based manufacturer of toys and entertainment products, has made an offer of $675-million(US) for the U.S. Toys ‘R’ Us stores and a $215-million(US) offer for the stores in Canada, according to the Globe & Mail and Bloomberg News.