Toy Business

See what it's like to be a part of the toy business. Read blog posts about events that Learning Express Toys has attended, including the annual toy fair in New York City and the annual Learning Express convention. Find out more about our toy store owners and our corporate employees in interviews and through their top toy picks and exclusives!
  • Learning Express Toys and Learning Express Play to open in Bedford, MA

     

    Bedford Marketplace in Bedford, MA is the very first combined Learning Express Toys and Learning Express Play concept. Construction is complete and we’re busy setting up fixtures and checking in stock. We will begin to merchandise next week.

    Corner of building showing Learning Express Play on one side and Learning Express Toys on the other Learning Express Toys and Learning Express Play are adjacent to each other in the Bedford Marketplace.

    A children’s activity center and play museum for children ages 6 months through age 8, Learning Express Play will host classes, birthday parties and open play. Classes will span movement and dance, art, music, science and other themes. The play space, named Downtown Play, will feature more than 16 themed play areas inspired by New England townscapes and nationally-recognized children's museums, including a general store, design and build center, veterinary clinic, performing arts center, pretend restaurant, infant play area, 1000 sq. ft. gymnasium with a rock-climbing wall, and much, much more.

    A replica of a downtown area with play areas labeled Design & Build,The Book Nook, Paws & Claws, Yummie's, and DPFD Engine Co. 1. Two children ride PlasmaCars on the track in front of the mini buildings. Children can drive PlasmaCars and other ride-on toys in Downtown Play, as well as explore the themed play areas.

    Our Grand Opening is scheduled for September 23-25. We’ll have guest appearances from Elmo, Peppa the Pig, Elsa & Anna, Marshall from Paw Patrol, Cinderella and many more. Contests, raffles, and doorbusters will be happening throughout the weekend.

     

  • Learning Express Toys Recognizes Top Vendors at Convention 2016

    Vendors pose with their awards at the Awards Banquet.Learning Express Toys is proud to recognize its top vendor partners at our annual Convention. While every product is hand-selected for quality and exceptional play value, certain products and vendors rise to the top – helping Learning Express Toys stand out for both its selection and vibrant in-store atmosphere.

    Our Awards Banquet is one of the most anticipated events of Convention, and we are pleased to announce the following winners of this year’s awards.

    Product Awards

    Awarded to products new to Learning Express in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016 based upon originality, creativity, leading edge design, and sales performance in each of the following categories:

    Alexa Crowe, right, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award to The Orb Factory. Alexa Crowe, right, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award to The Orb Factory.

    Arts & Crafts - Winner: 3D PlushCraft Kits by The Orb Factory

    Fashion/Tween - Winner: Emoji Pillows by Top Trenz, Inc

    Party Favors - Winner: Shopkins Season 4 by License 2 Play/Moose Toys

    Rob Kracinovich, left, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award for construction to LEGO. Rob Kracinovich, left, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award to LEGO.

    Action, Skill & Sports - Winner: Slimeball DodgeTag by Diggin

    Construction - Winner: Star Wars, City, and Friends Advent Calendars by LEGO

    Science - Winner: Mixed by Me Thinking Putty Kit by Crazy Aaron's Putty World

    Lauren Ciprotti, left, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award to Melissa & Doug. Lauren Ciprotti, left, of Learning Express Toys presents a product award to Melissa & Doug.

    Infant - Winner: Take Along Town Play Mat by Melissa and Doug

    Toddler - Winner: SpinAgain by Fat Brain Toys

    Preschool - Winner: Gigantic Play Piano by Alex Brands

    Mary Mintz of Learning Express Toys presents product awards to Schylling, Workman Publishing and 88 Unlimited. Mary Mintz, center, of Learning Express Toys presents product awards to Schylling, Workman Publishing and 88 Unlimited.

    Books - Winner: Mindfulness Coloring Book by Workman Publishing

    Games - Winner: Electronic Football by Schylling

    Plush - Winner: Perfect Petzzz by 88 Unlimited

    Rick Derr, right, of Learning Express Toys of Lake Zurich presents the Toy of the Year award to Boogie Board. Rick Derr, right, of Learning Express Toys of Lake Zurich presents the first Toy of the Year award to Boogie Board.

    Rick Derr, right, presents the Toy of the Year Award to License 2 Play/Moose Toys. Rick Derr, right, presents the second Toy of the Year Award to License 2 Play/Moose Toys.

    Toy of the Year - Winners: Play 'n Trace by Boogie Board / Shopkins Season 4 by License 2 Play/Moose Toys

    Vendor Awards

    Exclusive Product Development Award - Awarded to the vendor who has worked closely with us to develop exclusive products that enable us to differentiate our product mix as well as drive additional sales.

    Winner: The Orb Factory

    Best New Vendor Award - Awarded to a new "corporate" vendor who quickly adapts to the uniqueness of the Learning Express franchise system, is supportive of our individual store owners, and whose product is innovative and performs well in our stores.

    Winner: Dreamland Fairy

    Steve Kessel, left, of Learning Express Toys presents the Customer Service award to Schylling. Steve Kessel, left, of Learning Express Toys presents the Customer Service award to Schylling.

    Best Customer Service Award - Awarded to the vendor that is always in-stock and ships on time; has quick order turnaround time; acts quickly to handle returns, defectives or discrepancies; and provides consistent and timely communication to both the store owners and the home office buying group.

    Winner: Schylling

    Store Support Award - Awarded to the vendor that supplies the best product training materials, free demos, product for in-store events (play-days), innovative merchandising displays/fixtures, and POP signage that educates the customer - all contributing to maximizing sales of their products.

    Winner: The Orb Factory

    Best Product Innovation Award - Awarded to the vendor that delivers the most exciting new product and packaging, encouraging the customer to buy.

    Winner: Crazy Aaron's Putty World

    LEGO receives a sales award. LEGO receives a sales award.

    Sales Awards - Awarded to the top three vendors for highest sales volume of core products.

    Winners:

    #1 - LEGO

    #2 - Melissa and Doug

    #3 - Toysmith

    Alexa Crowe, right, of Learning Express Toys presents a sales award to International Arrivals. Alexa Crowe, right, of Learning Express Toys presents a sales award to International Arrivals.

    Sales Increase Awards - Awarded to the top three vendors for largest percentage sales increase on core products.

    Winners:

    #1 - License 2 Play

    #2 - International Arrivals

    #3 - Logo Loops

    Todd Jacob, left, and Connie Jacob, right, present the Marketing Program Award to Toysmith. Todd Jacob, left, and Connie Jacob, right, present the Marketing Program Award to Toysmith.

    Best Marketing Program Award - Awarded to the vendor that that offers exciting promotions that dramatically increase customer traffic while maintaining store profit margins.

    Winner: Toysmith

    Shelley Hobson, second from left, and Cindy O'Hara, second from right, of Learning Express Toys, present the Vendor of the Year Award to The Orb Factory. Shelley Hobson, second from left, and Cindy O'Hara, second from right, of Learning Express Toys, present the Vendor of the Year Award to The Orb Factory.

    Vendor of the Year Award - Awarded to the vendor provides outstanding customer service to our stores, develops highly saleable and innovative products, supports our marketing efforts and provides excellent store training and support programs.

    Winner: The Orb Factory

    Thank you to all of our wonderful vendor partners, and congratulations! We look forward to another great year!

  • 4 Great Toys to Distract Baby (So You Can Get Things Done)

    Mirari Baby Toys: 4 Great Toys to Distract BabyNew moms and dads are great problem-solvers. They’re constantly on the hunt for ways to distract baby so they can get things done: make dinner, throw in a load of laundry or take a shower.

    This is where interactive toys step in! Mirari’s line of infant toys are great for surprising and delighting baby with fun sounds. Babies and toddlers love to press buttons, so the Mirari myPhone, Wee Keys, myPad Touch and Pop! Pop! Piano are sure to keep them entertained. At the same time, they’ll be learning concepts like cause-and-effect and hand-eye coordination. They’re all Summer Top Toys!

    myPhone

    The Mirari myPhone is a fun toy smartphone for babies 6 months and up. Babies are fascinated by anything Mom or Dad plays with, so why not give them their own phone? The myPhone has a remote control, so the parent can make the phone ring from 15 feet away and baby can “answer” it. Babies learn cause and effect when they press the circular button on the phone, and a personalized recorded message from Mom or Dad plays. Colorful lights and sounds entertain baby with sensory stimulation as she presses the icons.

    Wee Keys

    Mirari Wee Keys

    Mirari Wee Keys are another great toy for babies as young as 6 months. This big, plastic key ring features three sturdy keys for infants to hold, each with a different texture. Babies can explore grasping and develop hand-eye coordination while they grip and rattle the keys. Buttons on the key fob play four familiar car sounds: A car engine starting, a door lock, an alarm being set, and a horn honking. Babies will love bringing their keys on car rides when Mom and Dad get out their keys!

    myPad Touch

    The Mirari myPad Touch lets toddlers over 12 months play with their own tablet, just like Mommy’s and Daddy’s! Press the power button, then any icon on the screen to light it up and play songs and fun phrases that correspond to the icons. For example, the picture of grapes and a banana says “Fruit is yummy!” and a picture of a shirt and pants says “Find your socks!” Toddlers learn the cause-and-effect relationship and to predict the sounds associated with the icons. The safe, durable myPad Touch lets toddlers get in on tablet fun.

    Pop! Pop! Piano

    Lastly, kids over 12 months will love the Mirari Pop! Pop! Piano, an exciting, multisensory toy piano that plays notes or silly sounds while popping plastic stars into the air. The clear dome is removable, so parents can choose whether to keep the stars contained or to watch them tumble away as the child presses the keys. When baby is younger, he will enjoy the silly sounds like laughter and a slide whistle. When he’s a little older, he’ll enjoy learning simple tunes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the 6-note piano.

    Whether you need a baby gift or you’re a parent looking to keep your little one entertained, check out our great selection of infant and toddler toys.

    Beep beep!

    --Becki

  • How I Quit My Job and Opened a Toy Store

    Here’s How It Happened

    “It was a complete accident, it was just something I fell into, that I thought would be fun. We took it from nothing to fantastic in such a short time. I’m always confident that I can rock whatever I set out to do, but some days I’m still amazed that it actually happened!” – Deb Tandy, owner, Learning Express Toys of The Woodlands, TX

    “Having the nerve, at 40 years of age, to leave a successful corporate career, great paycheck and all the benefits to pursue the dream of owning my own business. Thankfully Malcolm was supportive and it became our business and it became Learning Express!!!” –Cindy O’Hara, owner, Learning Express Toys of Alpharetta, GA

     “The year was 1995 when a young couple from Needham, MA came to the Learning Express schoolhouse office to meet with Sharon and talk about their plans to go from being a customer to being store owners. Shelley Hobson was a marketing executive for Channel 4 in Boston (our NBC affiliate at that time) and Ed was the CFO of a large Boston company. With their two young boys, they decided to leave their well-established careers, and move their family to Wilmington, NC to open a Learning Express toy store.” –Shelley and Ed Hobson, owners, Wilmington, NC

    “Wade was an Electrical Engineer and I worked in customer service/training at Xilinx, Inc. We were, by all accounts, workaholics. After our youngest child was born, we knew something wasn't right and knew our lives were going to change. We made the decision to move to Reno so that we could be stay-at-home parents and focus all of our attention on our children. Our children taught us to love, understand and fully appreciate toys and their benefi­ts. They also helped us notice that something was missing in Reno – a specialty toy store!”  – Suzanne and Wade Peterson, Reno, NV

    Learning Express Toys Cashier

    These entrepreneurs come from very different backgrounds, but they had each reached a turning point in their lives and decided it was time to try something different.  They had energy, they had drive, and they had passion. They only lacked what Learning Express could provide: The support, tools and infrastructure to get their business up and running.

    Now, they all have one incredible thing in common: the joy of owning a toy store.

    How to Become a Toy Store Owner

    Let’s chat. The first step to discovering whether owning a Learning Express Toys store is right for you is just filling out a quick form. We’ll follow up with a call from our franchise development department so we can introduce ourselves and get to know you.

    Submit an application. Fill out our short-and-sweet franchise application to receive our franchise disclosure document, or FDD.  This contains the critical information about our franchisor/franchisee relationship, including our commitment to store support, information on franchise start-up costs, and ongoing fees.

    Ask around. You’ll receive a phone number for each of our franchisees, and have the opportunity to talk to them first-hand about their experiences as part of the Learning Express Toys family.Inside a Learning Express Toys Store

    Meet the team. Visit our office in Devens, Massachusetts for a Discovery Day – a full day of discussion with the Home Office staff who will help you open, run and optimize your business.

    Submit a deposit. Once you provide a $5,000 refundable deposit, we’ll work with you to analyze your demographics, find a location, and negotiate a lease.

    Sign the papers. You’ll sign the franchise agreement and lease at the same time, and we’ll start build-out. You’ll work with our Store Designer and Construction Coordinator to get your store ready in approximately 12 weeks.

    Learn the business. No retail management experience is necessary. We provide a week of classroom training on all aspects of running your business at our Home Office, from marketing to inventory.

    Ready the troops. A grand opening manager will be on-site at your location for three weeks before your opening to help train your new staff and receive mountains of toys from our best vendors. There’s no need to worry about which products to order at first – we have that covered.

    Bring on the customers! We’ll guide you through every aspect of your Grand Opening weekend, including up-front marketing, staffing, scheduling events, and reporting. We’ll help introduce you into the community and welcome your new customers.

    Call us anytime. A regional support partner will communicate with you regularly and schedule follow-up visits to help you keep your store running smoothly. Our Home Office team is available for marketing, technical and buying support and to provide a wealth of new ideas, products and practices. In addition, you’ll join our community of store owners and have access to advice and ideas from experienced pros. You’ll never be all on your own!

    Joys of Owning a Toy Store

    Our store owners say this is what keeps them going:

    The Kids!  They keep you young, tuned in and energized! We love sharing their milestones and celebrating their birthdays.

    The Parents!  They are keenly aware of how toys can improve their child’s skills and want knowledgeable staff to assist them in reaching their goals. We love it when a parent or teacher tells us how much our products have helped their kids.Girl with puppet

    The Grandparents!  They want to be current and relate to their grandchildren. We love it when grandparents tell us how much their grandkids were THRILLED with their choices we helped them make.

    Our Community!  The opportunities to give back to local schools and organizations is boundless. We feel so fortunate to be able to make a real difference in the community in which we raised our own children.

    Take the Next Step

    Find out whether owning a toy store is your next career move. Check out our franchise section and send us a note to receive more information. We’d love to hear from you.Girl on toy telephoneCall Linda Moore at (800) 436-8697 to start the conversation.

  • LE Toys Takes Toy Fair by Storm

    This year was no different from the rest—travel woes ensued when franchisees from across the country made their way to New York during the cold, snowy month of February. The weather never deters a Learning Express Toys franchisee, though, and store owners gathered from near (the Upper East Side) and far (California) to attend the 112th annual International Toy Fair at the Javits Center. One of the highlights of the year, Toy Fair offered store owners the opportunity to participate in training sessions, search for new products, meet with vendors, and connect with one another. Continue reading