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"There is always a great demand for quality toys and games"

Ineke Stuivenbert and Marleon Kersten, owners of Pim’s Olifant (Utrecht, the Netherlands)


Ineke Stuivenbert (left) and Marleon Kersten at the door of their toy store in Utrecht

In the Netherlands big toy chains lead sales, but independent toy stores that are committed to quality products remain important for the industry, as Ineke Stuivenbert and Marleon Kersten, owners of Pim's Olifant, explain. This toy store from Utrecht sells traditional and learning products since 1996, and it also has its own online shop.

Which are the main market trends of the top toy industry in the Netherlands?
The average cost price of toys is getting lower in general, and there is a lot more of digital products for children, like computer games, toys with sounds and so on.

Which are the main characteristics of the toy retail business in the Netherlands?

The retail business is dominated by a few chains of shops like Intertoys, Bart Smits, Blokker – which are concentrated in a holding, so they almost have a monopoly position. Thereby every city has its smaller more specialized shops like Pim’s Olifant in Utrecht, which are independent and concentrate on wooden and quality toys, more than the big chains do. There is also more competition from webshops like Bol.com and drugstore shop chains like Het Kruidvat.

Do families prefer independent  toy retailers or are big chains increasing their presence?

Families choose tin general the toys from the big chains, because their toys are cheaper and “more plastic for a lower price”. The chain promote their product intensive by television advertisement, internet and  big colorful magazines.

But there are also families that buy durable toys, specially grandmothers and fathers - people with a higher income, or people who find it worth the money.

How does your store try to differentiate itself from its competence?
We try to differentiate ourself from the competence by concentrating on beautiful and quality toys represented by strong brands  like Haba, Djeco, Brio, Schleich, Corolle, Lilliputiens, Sigikid and so on.

We also have many books for children and special games, but in general not video games or other digital games. We also try to make the difference by giving good personal advices and service.

Our slogan is: “Speelgoed waar je mee blijft spleen, boeken die je nooit vervelen.” (“Toys you keep on playing with and books that never bore you.”)

You also sell online, how is the online toy market evolving in the Netherlands? Do parents buy toys online?
On our website www.pimsolifant.nl a great part of the products we offer can be bought online. However we observe that our website is used as a show window and that people like to come to our real shop to look at the toys and asking for an advice. Online selling is still a very small part of the total sales in our shop. In the Netherlands more and more toys are bought online, but there is more buying of cloths, shoes, electronics, books, cd’s and so on.

What will be the most important challenges for toy retailers in the coming years?
The biggest challenge for the coming years is to increase sales again (after years of crisis) by keeping our faith in quality products and further optimize the online shop. We also are constantly searching for new products that are of good quality.

Are families aware of the importance of toys for the development of children?
There will be always parents that know it is important  for the development of their children’s imagination, motor activity, etc.  to play with wooden and other quality toys. And not with the ordinary plastic products that are sold by the big chains.

Have consumer habits changed during the economic difficulties?
Last years the sales of the chains and also from our store are diminished, but we observe that there is always a great demand for quality toys, games, puppets and so on.

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