Had a great 3 days in Vegas. At sales meetings. (Of course, there was some time to do a little damage to my wallet, too. But that’s a whole nother blog.)
Overall message from the other reps that I met and got to listen to, is that our independent stores across the country are hurting. And while economy is a factor – it’s an indirect factor. Because people are earning less, they are shopping for the deal – and the deal is on Amazon. So, this is an interesting fact – some of the manufacturers reported that sales were down in the specialty markets (your local mom and pop toy shops – you know – the ones with free gift wrapping, and the playdates where you bring the kids for a fun afternoon activity) but the new category, “internet sales”, were up enough that the overall sales were not only NOT down for the year, in most cases, they were UP! Which means that we as a country are not really buying less (at least in the specialty toy category), we are buying different. We are buying shortsightedly.
I am not going to say I never shop on Amazon and nobody else should either. I am just going to say, we should think first. I, too, have kids who tell me they need a book the night before they need it. And jumping on Amazon to order it and knowing that they will only have one class without is an amazing thing. The fact that I don’t have to chase all over town looking for said title when I really have other things to do, is even better. I do get it. I guess what I am saying is that if we don’t figure out a way to balance our purchasing power, we are actually going to end up with way fewer choices. Like when you do all of your Christmas toy shopping on Amazon, don’t be surprised if you find your local toy shop gone in January when you need a cute, thoughtful, unique, birthday gift in a pinch. Sure you can buy a Target gift card on your way to the celebration. That’s always fun to watch being opened at the party. (Another case for why there should be a sarcastic font.) And that is the thought that just keeps me writing about this topic – we could wake up one day and find that all of our cute stores are gone with our choices to shop online, or at Target, Walmart or Costco. It really could happen.
And if that is not a scary enough thought to make you consider where you buy – check out this story! Amazon is giving customers $ rewards for going into brick and mortar stores and using their phones to scan bar codes and send the data back to Amazon. While I am sure it is legal, in my book, there are some major moral red flags. I cannot even imagine having the gall to do that in someone’s store. Someone who spends hours planning the purchases, paying employees, rent, marketing, etc. Wow! Just wow!
So for now, thank goodness there are some awesome stores to do your holiday shopping! And one of my favorite places to stroll and find cute things is Newport Beach’s Balboa Island. Recognized on many national lists of where to go to see stunning Christmas lights, this is a win/win locale! Great sights, great stores, fun restaurants – memorable family holiday outing. Remember, I owe you two stores today. Balboa Island is an easy place to write about because 99% of the stores on Marine Ave. are independently owned.
One of my favorites is Even Sisters.
The store has been around forever, and has had various owners (some of the most recent owners, Katie and Helen, are still around and working in the store on days that they are not pursuing new ventures such as grandkids and pet photography enhancements) the most recent owner, Corie, has kept the store stocked with great surfwear lines, fun jewelry, and unique gifts. The cow is still out front (if you aren’t familiar with the store, check it out, and you will get what I am talking about), and it is usually filled with local customers who frequently know each other and stop their browsing for a little while to catch up. Right now, the store has an incredible selection of Tom’s shoes. And I am happy to write about Tom’s cause their business ideology is pretty great – buy a pair of shoes and another pair is automatically donated to someone who is currently going without shoes in a third world country. Combine that fact with the fashion forward styles of shoes they offer and you can see why they are so popular (yes, both of my kids started out the school year with a new pair!) Even Sisters has all the styles with the holiday perfect sparkly variety front and center – check it out!
And in the same block, another fav – Our Gang’s General Store.
Jill, the owner, keeps this tiny two lane store stocked from top to bottom with best sellers in more categories than you can believe she can cram in there- always displayed in a fun and inviting way. From early activities for babies to cute flags with quotes about happy hour, it’s in there! She has been known for over a decade for her selection of wind ups, including numerous vintage styles. She also carries a small selection of quirky book titles. A couple of years ago Santa purchased from her store the “How to Behave and Why” title and left it under our tree. Games, cards, plush, party favors, Balboa mementos – truly something fun and unique for everyone on your list! Featured toy – the newest version of Bucky Cube – very powerful magnet set that you can manipulate in incredible ways. Great fidgety toy for the teens (and maybe even a stocking stuffer for the husband).
Even Sisters, 207 Marine Ave, Newport Beach (949) 673-2130
Our Gang’s General Store, 217 1/2 Marine Ave., Newport Beach (949) 675-0666