One of the few remaining independent toy stores in Pleasantville, NY, Westchester County announced they will close this month. After 42 years in business, it was no longer profitable and the owners felt they had no other options.
On their Facebook page, the owners listed a few reasons why. I want to discuss each of these points and also how they apply to the challenges facing all independent stores — and also how it applies to independent book stores.
- RENT: Building landlord was not willing to lease for more than two years — one of the bigger challenges to any store is the rent. If the store is in a desirable spot with strong foot traffic, the landlord generally can get more money from a corporate entity. It is too bad but it is reality. There are already too many Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Chase Banks and the like. The owner of the building is in it to make the most money.
- SYSTEMS: Old systems need to be upgraded to meet new credit card security demands — the Try and Buy owners mention it would be a “$40,000-$50,000 investment” just to be up-to-date to take the new chip-enchande cards. I don’t know much about the costs, but do know it is imperative that stores have modern inventory; cash-register and credit card swipers. I wonder if something like Square would resolve this?
- CHANGING MARKET: They also mention that children are more enamored with electronics than traditional toys (so are adults). This is a trend that has been ongoing since the beginning of time. It will continue. Makes it tough for a “traditional” store. The inventory mix is harder and harder to predict with the push away from the tried and true. But there is also a backlash against being wired all the time.
- AMAZON: Customers “show rooming.” This is the one that drives me more crazy than any other. I shop on Amazon. But if I am in an independent store and find what I want, I buy it there. I never understood the cheap mentality people who of use a store as a showroom one to buy online. Don’t do it people. Don’t abuse the bricks and mortar outlets just so you can see it before buying online (except if you do it to Walmart!). This is an issue that stores need to continue to educate consumers about the harm this does to stores. It is also just plain rude.
- COMPETITION: They mention more places selling toys like drug stores and grocery stores as hurting their sales. Again, I am not sure of the amount of toys purchased at these other outlets, but it does seem like something that has been ongoing for years. The selection at these chains is still limited. But in an ever competitive market, I guess all competition chips away.
Each of these issues can be applied to independent bookstores. Realizing that these are going to be obstacles regardless, many have successfully fought and won in the battle for the retail dollar. But it will always be a challenge. To survive a store must adapt and keep current.
I will miss Try and Buy. I hope the landlord doesn’t put in another bank branch in the spot.